20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– “Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether there is any way in which this Parliament can overcome the defect existing in section 44 of the Constitution which makes- no provision for rendering any person who becomes mentally unstable, ineligible to retain his seat in this Parliament?
– I read the Constitution frequently, of necessity. I shall have a look at the point to which, the honorable member has directed my attention and shall read the relevant section of the Constitution with as much mental stability as I. am able to’ summon.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House on the circumstances which have made a delay necessary in the assumption of the duties of Governor-General by Field Marshal Sir William Slim?
– Beyond what has been published concerning this matter I am not in a position to say anything. I expect to be in a position to add further details quite shortly, but as they depend upon communications between Mr. Churchill and myself, it is quite obvious that I cannot discuss them until those circumstances have become clear. I am able to add, since there will be very natural curiosity about this matter, that Field Marshal Sir William Slim is a man of very great standing with a particular knowledge of the circumstances to be discussed. That is why the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, although he realized that it would mean some disturbance of our own arrangements, asked me to agree to the postponement of the arrival here of Field Marshal Sir William Slim. I am confidently anticipating that Field Marshal
Sir William Slim will arrive here not later than the end of April so that the delay will not be unduly great.
– I understand that the departure from England of the Governor-General elect. Field Marsha] Sir William Slim, lias been temporarily delayed. Will the Prime Minister consider arranging for the Field Marshal to make an inspection of and report on Australian defences after his arrival in Australia and before he takes up his appointment as Governor-General?
– I appreciate the honor-able member’s point of view, but I do not think that it is at all feasible to do as he ask3. The arrival in Australia of the Governor-General elect having been delayed for some little time by matters of high importance, immediately after Sir William Slim reaches here he should proceed to be sworn and take up his office. It would be unfortunate indeed for the office of Governor-General if the Governor-General elect, after having arrived here, proceeded to perform some duty on behalf of the Government before taking up his office as Her Majesty’s representative. I believe that on his arrival in Australia he should with all due speed be sworn and assume the duties of his office.
– As a number of members of the Parliament were not present at the dinner which was tendered by the Government to the retiring Governor-General, will the Prime Minister make arrangements to have printed and circulated the speech which was made on that occasion by the Vice-President of the Executive Council ?
– I think that the expenditure required fo:r the printing suggested by the honorable member would hardly be worth while. The honorable member for East Sydney was invited to the dinner. He had his own reasons for staying away. I have no doubt that they were very bad.
– In view of the importance of new discoveries of uranium in the Northern Territory, will the Minister for Supply tell the House whether the Government has made up its mind to allow the mining of this ore by private interests? If the answer to this question is, “ Yes “, will the Minister state what price the Government is prepared to pay for the ore and other conditions that are likely to be imposed? 1 ask this question because of the uncertainty that exists in the minds of prospectors and others who would be interested in developing fields that the Government itself is unable to develop.
– The matters that the honorable gentleman has mentioned are of very considerable complexity. The Atomic Energy Commission, which was formed at the end of last year, has been instructed to bend its attentions to those matters as its first task. The commission has been examining them very closely. I have before me at present some recommendations by the commission which I hope will be brought before the Government very shortly, after which we shall be able to make an announcement.
– Can the Prime Minister advise the House of the- present position in relation to compensation payments for former prisoners of war of the Japanese, and in particular give the House any information in relation to the second payment to be made from the sale of Japanese assets held in neutral and former enemy countries of World War II.?
– The bulk of the payments out of the fund already available have actually been made. I shall obtain the precise particulars, because they would undoubtedly be of interest to the honorable member, and I shall make them available. Discussions about the possible second payment to which he has referred are not yet complete. As soon as they are complete I shall make a statement in respect of them
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister, I assume that the right honorable gentleman is aware that there is much agitation in the metropolitan area of Victoria regarding the necessity for a special education grant to provide necessary school accommodation. Leaving out of consideration loans authorized by the Australian Loan Council, is the Prime Minister prepared to make any special grant for the purposes in relation to which the agitation exists?
– The honorable member, having, very properly, omitted any question as to what happens in the Australian Loan Council, has put this as a matter requiring some special grant by the Commonwealth. I point out that the capacity of the Commonwealth to make special grants is not inexhaustible. In common with all other governments, we are not readily in a position to move beyond our resources. I think that any consideration of a special grant for education generally is most unlikely, because I do not consider it to be practicable. I am certainly quite clear that in the normal course it does not, fall within either the jurisdiction or the responsibility of the Commonwealth. At the same time the honorable gentleman knows’ that, by means of grants to the States and otherwise, we, as a Government, have already given substantial help to education. We have made available grants for the benefit of State universities, and very handsome provisions, totalling almost £1,000,000 a year, for a scholarship scheme which has helped many thousands of families. We have in those two respects, and in others, made larger sums of money available for educational purposes than has ever been the case before. We shall not weary in welldoing, because we attach great importance to these matters. I merely say to the honorable member that to talk in large figures about general grants for educational purposes is to misunderstand the resources of the Commonwealth and the particular function that the Commonwealth has to perform.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question concerning persons who are not required, under the law, to pay income tax, but are still compelled to submit income tax returns. Does the right honorable gentleman know that many officers of the Taxation Branch axe engaged in checking such returns?
I ask him whether, in the interests of economy, it would be possible to set a figure of income below which income earners need not submit income tax returns.
– 1 shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member and supply him with an answer.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House about the outcome of discussions, that took place last week at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, relating to uniform taxation and the possibility of the States resuming collection of their own taxes? Will be also inform honorable members whether concrete proposals were submitted to the States by the Commonwealth, and if they were submitted and were refused, whether the right honorable gentleman indicated that in future the States would be restricted to the formula, that was agreed to by the States so far as tax reimbursements are concerned, and that the States would be limited to loan raisings for public works without additional assistance from Commonwealth funds?
– In view of the cloud of misapprehension that has, in some quarters, surrounded the recent conference - which was conducted in a good atmosphere and with useful results - I think it due to the House that I should make a full statement, not excessively long but I hope full enough to be clear a.nd explicit, as to what took place at that conference. I cannot do that to-day, because such a statement will require a great deal of preparation. However, I shall make the statement to-morrow. I invite all honorable members to withhold their own individual judgments on these matters until they have heard, as I believe they will hear for the first time, a plain, clear and accurate account of what took place.
– Is the Treasurer aware that two serious weaknesses are now appearing in the operation of the new procedure of self-assessment of provisional tax? Firstly, from the taxpayers’ point of view, persons who are subject to provisional tax are put to the trouble and expense of making two sets of detailed calculations of their income, first at the 31st March and again at the end of the financial year, in order to arrive at their tax liability. Secondly, from the point of view of the Taxation Branch, a considerable amount of extra work is involved which has necessitated staff increases and has impeded the branch’s efforts to speed up its work in issuing assessments. In- view of these facts, is the Treasurer prepared to scrap the system of self-assessment of provisional tax and revert to the old system of basing provisional tax upon the previous year’s income, with the proviso that a wide discretionary power be granted to the Commissioner of Taxation to reduce assessments in all cases where there is a sharp fall in income from that of the previous year ?
– The Government has no intention to depart from1 the policy and principles of selfassessment of taxes. All the factors to which the honorable member has referred were taken into consideration before the relevant legislation wa.3 introduced. I am sure that if the self-assessment principle is given a fair and reasonable trial, it will be accepted as beneficial and an improvement upon the unsatisfactory method of assessing provisional tax that was followed previously.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the pension of a widow of a British serviceman resident in Australia is taxable in Australia, but that the pension of a widow of an American serviceman residing in Australia is exempt from taxation? As the reason for this anomaly is stated, to be that the British widow’s pension would immediately become taxable in England if it were exempted in Australia, will the Prime Minister discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities during his visit to the United Kingdom in an endeavour to have the anomaly removed?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for directing my attention to a matter of which I was not aware. I shall discuss the matter with my colleagues, and if it seems appropriate to do so, I shall discuss it also with the authorities in the United Kingdom.
– Is it a fact that self-assessment of tax, as recently introduced by the Government, will be the means of overcoming anomalies in the provisional tax system, which was introduced by a Labour government?
– That is the purpose of the self -assessment system. It is intended to adjust the anomalies that existed under the former scheme, which was introduced by the Chifley Government.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that on Tuesday last an officer of the Commonwealth Investigation Service canvassed trade union officials at the Trades Hall, Sydney, with a view to securing the defeat of certain candidates for office in the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council elections which are to. be held on Thursday next ? Is it also a fact that this officer falsely accused a candidate, who is a prominent member of the Australian Labour party, of being an undercover Communist, and stated that the name of the candidate appears on a secret Commonwealth list? Was this officer acting under instructions, and, if so, since when has it become the function of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to interest itself in the election of officers in the trade union movement?
– I am quite unable, without notice, to answer a question concerning the Commonwealth Investigation Service, since that service is administered by the Attorney-General, whom I represent here. ‘ I shall, therefore, see that the question is conveyed to my colleague, the Attorney-General.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to give the House any information concerning the progress made in International Wheat Agreement, talks ?
– No. No progress ha.s been made since I spoke on this matter in the House last week. As soon as any direct advance has been made, I shall communicate the fact to the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If the States and the wheat-growers can agree on a future wheat marketing plan, is the Minister prepared to introduce legislation for such a plan? At what stage are negotiations in connexion with the future of Australian wheat marketing irrespective of the outcome of the International Wheat Agreement discussions?
– The honorable member referred to only two parties to the kind of wheat stabilization plan that has hitherto been contemplated. In fact there are three parties - the Australian Government, the State governments and the wheat-growers themselves. The Australian Government has made it clear during the last three years that it is willing to be party to a wheat stabilization scheme on terms that incorporate provisions of prudent federal finance, and of ;i character which is acceptable to the growers. In fact I believe that such a -i.-heme would have been in existence by now if the States which are essential parties to the arrangements, could have been induced to agree to a plan. Negotiations have not proceeded during the last two or three months for t«- reasons. First, general elections were approaching in several States, and no government felt disposed to negotiate a final attitude in view of that fact. Secondly, it was agreed by the growers and their representatives that it would be better to negotiate a stabilization plan after the terms of the International Wheat Agreement were known or after it was known that an international wheat agreement would not be effected. International negotiations will be concluded in the near future, and the State elections will soon be over. I propose to invite the State Ministers of Agriculture and the growers to confer with me within the next few weeks.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer in reference to the announcement he made last year that he had written to the Premier of Queensland requesting information concerning the attitude of that State towards the Dajarra-Northern Territory rail link. If the right honorable gentleman has received a reply from the Queensland Government on the subject, is he in a position to inform the House of the proposals contained in such reply? If he has not as yet received a reply, can he state whether any progress has been made with this very important national undertaking ?
– A questionnaire was addressed to the Premier of Queensland, but a reply has not yet been received from him.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to state whether any progress has been made by his department concerning the building of a modern post office at Maroubra Junction? Has his department taken into consideration the sub-standard conditions that prevail at the present post office? In view of the fact that he has claimed that there is a surplus of staff in his department, and having regard to the fact that building materials are now available and that many unemployed artisans, who were previously employed in the building trades, are now walking the streets-
– Order ! What is the question?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the building of a modern post office at Maroubra Junction?
– Of course I shall give consideration to the building of a modern post office at Maroubra, but such a work must take its place in the order of priority. I remind the honorable member that there are many other places in Australia which have greater claims to a modern post office than has Maroubra.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state the reasons for the decision, recently ‘ implemented, that Commonwealth employees aged 65 years or more must be dismissed. Has that rule been applied impartially? Is the instruction a denial of the right honorable gentleman’s previously expressed view that men of pensionable age should be encouraged to remain in employment?
– The answering of the honorable member’s question involves the securing of information from the Public Service Board. I shall obtain that information, and as soon as it is available I shall ask leave to answer the question by treating it for that purpose as being on the record.
-Will the Prime Minister instruct the Tariff Board, which is an instrument for the protection of Australian secondary industries, to Curtail the free entry of ready-made articles of clothing into Australia and thus protect the livelihood of tens of thousands of Australian workers, and the interests of the clothing and textile industry, against unfair competition?
– I will not issue any instruction to the Tariff Board. I do not believe that that falls within my function. However, I shall consider the matter that has been raised by the honorable member and direct it to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and invite him to consider whether any action should be taken.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to convening a conference between the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Shipping and Transport and Tasmanian members of the Australian Parliament to discuss the vexed question of the greatly increased freight charges upon cargo that is transported between the mainland and Tasmania which are very adversely affecting interstate trade between Tasmania and the other Australian States?
– The question that has been raised is important and one in which the honorable member has shown considerable interest. I shall discuss with my colleagues the proposal that he has made.
– Will the Prime Minister present a comprehensive statement on the London conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers to the House at an early date?
– I will give consideration to the suggestion. Something may turn upon the state of the business of the House, but I understand what the honorable member has in mind and I believe that it will be useful to have some discussion on the matter at an appropriate time. Therefore, I shall consider his proposal.
– My question, which i.* directed to the Minister for Social Services, relates to the high valuations that are being placed on properties in New South Wales by the New South Wales Valuer-General and their effect upon pensioners. Is it true that property valuations have been raised in many instances by more than 200 per cent.? Is it also true that properties owned by pensioners that were formerly valued at £450 are now valued at £2,000, which is above the property qualification for pension purposes ? As these increased values affect pensioners by placing the value of their properties above the £1,000 limit provided in the social services legislation, will the Minister consider the waiving of the £1,000 limit in order to alleviate the unfortunate circumstances in which pensioners are placed by reason of these high valuations ?
– I am not aware of the increased valuations specifically referred to by the honorable member. I make it clear that the property in which a pensioner resides is not assessed for the purpose of ascertaining his pension rights. Only property other than that in which the pensioner resides is assessed for that purpose. In practice, the department has not penalized any pensioner because of increases in the value of property held by him. We have taken the view that as rents have not increased, the increased value of a pensioner’s property cannot be held against him, and, so far, no action, has been taken to do so. In the case of a new applicant for a pension the assessed value of property held by him is accepted. I know of no instance in which a pensioner has been penalized by reason of the increased valuation of his property.
– Is it a fact that applicants for the age pension, particularly in Sydney, are obliged to wait for more -than, three months before decisions are given in relation to their claims, even when there is no reason why delays should occur?
– I am not aware that delays of -anything like that duration occur in the city of Sydney. I have been through the department’s offices in Sydney many times and I know that the magistrates there, who are all capable men, work hard and well. However, I shall inquire personally into any undue delays of which the honorable member has information if he will supply me with the relevant details.
– Will the Minis ter for Social Services confer with his colleagues, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Health, with a view to making arrangements whereby age and invalid pensioners in the Australian Capital Territory who need spectacles may receive them without charge? I point out that in New South Wales age and invalid pensioners may, upon application, and on certification by a doctor, be supplied with spectacles free of charge.
– There is no provision in the Social Services Consolidation Act which would allow me to take action of the nature outlined by the honorable member, but I shall consult the Minister for Health and the Minister for the Interior on the matter.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether an approach has been made to the British Government for a premium price to be included in the meat contract with the United Kingdom for beef of weight, type and grade suitable for chilling? If so, what progress has been made in regard to the matter.?
Mfr. McEWEN. - At .the request -of the Australian Meat Board the delegation which was conducting price negotiations with the United Kingdom a few months ago for beef for the forthcoming year suggested that a new schedule should be included in the prices schedule for chiller type beef, shipped as frozen beef, providing for the payment of a premium of lid- per lb. sterling for ‘such beef. The reaction of the United Kingdom Ministry of Food was .to reject that request, hut to reply by offering :a very substantial premium for chiller type beef shipped as chillers. The Australian Meat Board considered that offer, but it :is of the opinion that organizational and technical problems associated with the. recommencement of shipment of chilled beef to the United Kingdom is not a practical proposition at the moment. The position now is that in accordance with the Government’s desire that various primary industries should manage their own affairs to the maximum degree possible, the Australian Meat Board has accepted the offer that I made to it to be the principals in the conduct of negotia- tions with the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. In that capacity, the board will be given whatever ministerial and departmental assistance it may require. I had a discussion with members of the board during the last few weeks and they informed me that the board, in its capacity as principal negotiator, intends to pursue negotiations with respect to the price of chiller type beef shipped to the United Kingdom as frozen beef.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the publication of a booklet entitled National Health, which is produced under his authority. No reference is made in the .booklet to the history Ot most of the benefits that are available under the national health scheme. Will the Minister advise the House why he has not followed the example set by the Minister for Social Services in authorizing .the publication of a similar booklet in which, in respect of all social services .benefits, details are given of .the dates of commencement, the Government that was in office at such dates and also a general review of the history of the social services scheme.
– If the honorable member will look more carefully at the booklet to which he has referred he will see that it is designed on the. basis of questions and answers to questions. The questions are typical of those that are repeatedly addressed to the department by enquirers about health benefits, and they are published in a form that will enable all people to understand them. No mention is made of any government in the booklet.
– Having regard to the fact that the High Court has given its judgment in the Poulton .case, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me of the details of the distribution of profits of Joint Organization to those persons who left the industry prior to September 1949? Has a commencement been made with that distribution? If so, when is it likely to be completed ? Several persons who have not yet received a payment under the distribution have raised this matter with me.
– The Poulton case has not been completely disposed of because notice of appeal to the Full Court has been given; but the Government’s legal advisers have advised it that in the light of the judgment of the. single judge it may safely proceed to make a disbursement of the profits of Joint Organization to persons within the class to which the honorable member has referred. The present position has been explained in public statements. A proportion of the profits will be disbursed to all wool-growers whether they left the industry prior to September, 194’9, or are still engaged in it. As has been the practice in the past, the disbursement will be made through wool-selling brokers, who will arrange to make it in the most convenient way. The disbursement to be made to every person entitled to participate will be an amount equal to 4 Der cent, of the appraised value of his wool, and it will be made on the 7th March next. Those who left the industry will be paid the balance of their entitlement as soon as the Australian Wool Realization Commission can perform this function. On present expectations, that disbursement, will be made during May next, and it is calculated that it will be. not less than an additional 6 per cent, of the total appraised value of their wool.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate what is the position of the balance of the payments due to woolgrowers who are still in the industry?
– The Government announced a year ago that, apart from wool-growers who had left the industry, all Joint Organization profits, including the value of the wool stores for which the Government would pay, would be distributed to all wool-growers in three approximately equal annual instalments. The first of those was paid in March, 1952, the second will be paid in March of this year, and the third in March, 1954.
– With the permission of the House, I wish to correct an inaccurate reply that I gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Franklin. I have since realized that I wrongly said that the balance of the Joint Organization profits would be paid next year. In fact, the balance will be paid over the next two years in two further annual instalments, not one.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. When can we expect a clear and concise statement about the recipients of payments under the Tuberculosis Act, and the reason for the removal of so many names from the list of persons eligible for the payment? Is it a fact that in the Waterfall Sanatorium alone 45 men were peremptorily told that their names had been removed from the list, although some of the sufferers were allegedly in a very bad state of health? Is it a fact that a reference to their condition being “ steady “ does not necessarily mean that their cases are arrested? How many names haTe been removed from the list of persons entitled to the payment ? How many of the sufferers are under the age at which persons become eligible to receive the age pension? Will the Minister have a complete investigation made of this rather painful subject, about which I have received many letters ?
– Dr. Wunderly, who is the Commonwealth Director of Tuberculosis, has kept a continuous supervision over this matter. The position is that special allowances are given to those cases which are acutely infectious.
When they cease to be acutely infectious, the sufferers are paid the ordinary social services benefit. Dr. Wunderly makes a continuous inspection of all the States, and discusses the position with the several Directors of Tuberculosis, who are State officers and who, in the last analysis, are the persons who really deal with this matter. If it is possible, I shall obtain for the honorable member for Parkes the exact number of persons whose names have been removed from the special list, and the reason for their removal, but Dr. Wunderly told me about a week ago, after an investigation, that he was completely satisfied that the law which was passed by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948 was being scrupulously observed.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether it is a fact that the names of a number of sufferers from tuberculosis of the spine and other parts of the bone structure of the body, who have been paid an allowance regularly since the Tuberculosis Act was passed by the Labour Government some years ago have been removed recently from the list of persons entitled to the payment of that benefit, although their condition to-day is neither more nor less infectious than it was when the payment was first made to them? Is it a fact that their names were removed from the list of those entitled to the benefit as the result of a direction by the right honorable gentleman himself as the Commonwealth Minister for Health?
– No special allowance was paid in respect of sufferers from tuberculosis until 1950, approximately seven months after the Labour Government had vacated office. The Labour Government introduced the Tuberculosis Bill in 1948, and I applauded its provisions.
– The States did not implement that act.
– As soon as I became the Minister for Health, the States implemented it. ‘ I applauded the Tuberculosis Bill when it was under consideration in this House, and I still consider that its provisions are right. They have been upheld by not only the Director of Tuberculosis but also the National Advisory Council on Tuberculosis. Those authorities are satisfied that the procedure prescribed in the act is the right means to pursue for the eradication of tuberculosis throughout Australia. As no special tuberculosis allowance was paid when the Labour Government was in office, the remainder of the honorable gentleman’s question does not require an answer.
– At the instance of the president of the Canterbury District Hospital Board, I ask the Minister for Health whether he is prepared to make a motor car available for the use of the nurses attached to that hospital who are engaged in visiting and nursing tuberculosis patients in their own homes?
– All arrangements in connexion with the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis are made by the State governments, but, in accordance with the Tuberculosis Agreement, the cost is borne by the Commonwealth. I advise the honorable member to make representations to the State member in whose electorate the hospital is situated; but, if he so desires, I shall make representations on his behalf.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether any progress has been made towards the establishment of a civil airport at Newcastle? Have the surveys been completed, and if they have, has anything been done to acquire the site? If the site has not been acquired, can the Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to acquire it during the present financial year? Does the Government intend to avail itself of the offers made by the Newcastle Council to assist in the preliminary work on this project ?
– No funds will be available during this financial year for the construction or otherwise of an airport at Newcastle.
– What about the acquisition of the land for that purpose?
– I shall ascertain the position regarding the other points in the honorable member’s question, and supply him with the information.
– In view of the fact that unemployment if. increasing in all country centres, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior give urgent consideration so the advisability of restoring the national service office at Cootamundra to its former status? I point out that, at the present time, the national service office is conducted in conjunction with the Electoral Office, the staff of which is already fully occupied with electoral matters ?
– The first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is based upon completely incorrect information. Unemployment is not rapidly increasing. I shall have an examination made of the other part of his question, and advise him of my decision.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that New South Wales poultry farmers, particularly those in the New England area, are concerned about the impact of the increasing price of feed wheat on production costs and therefore on their capacity to sell their product? If the Minister is aware of that concern, can he assure poultry farmers in the light of investigations that have been made of production costs and prices, that their position will be sufficiently eased in the near future to guarantee to them reasonable security in their industry?
– Concern has been expressed from many quarters on behalf of poultry farmers about the effects on the industry of the increase of the price of feed wheat, and I understand that a request has been made for the Australian Government to subsidize the industry further : the Commonwealth is, of course, already subsidizing the sale of feed wheat to poultry farmers. Last year the subsidy cost £4,000,000 and expenditure under that heading will be substantial again this year. From memory the subsidy at present is 2s. 2d. a bushel. This is not the first occasion on which poultry farmers have considered that rising wheat prices would seriously affect the sale pf eggs, for export at least, but fortunately in the past ways have always been found to sustain the industry without resorting to a direct Government subsidy. For instance, a United Kingdom contract for the supply of eggs provided that the price could not be increased by more than 1 per cent, per annum. I communicated with the British Ministry of Food and persuaded the authorities there to abandon that provision. In consequence, the price of eggs supplied to the United Kingdom increased in two years not by 15 per cent., but by 54 per cent. That improved the position of the poultry industry substantially. Recently in London, I had discussions with the Ministry of Food about the position of the Australian egg exporting industry next year, and, at present, representatives of the industry are in London at government expense, negotiating with the British Ministry of Food. I hope that the. result of the negotiations will be a price increase which will again hold out to Australian poultry farmers the prospect of continuing production profitably at the present subsidized price of wheat.
– I rise to celebrate the occasion of the annual asking of a well-known question of the Minister for Health. Has the famous commission that the Minister appointed to inquire’ into the arrival in this country of the Sirex wasp yet finished its perambulations and completed its report? If so, is the report so voluminous that it cannot readily be printed for presentation to the Parliament? Has the Minister himself studied the report, and does he consider that there is any prospect of obtaining recompense from suppliers of timber which has been found to contain the Sirex wasp? Does the Minister propose to delay action until the Statute of Limitations precludes any possibility of obtaining compensation ?
– The report has been received. As it is a very bulky document, it has been condensed and is now awaiting the consideration of the Government. In the meantime, the strict quarantine precautions that were instituted about eighteen months ago will continue to apply to imported timber. Therefore, there will be no risk of the introduction of the Sirex wasp: The remainder of the honorable member’s questions relate to matters that do not come under my jurisdiction.
– The question that. I wish to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerns the wine industry. In the light of the marked improvement in the economic position of the United Kingdom, will the Government make fresh representations to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he introduces his forthcoming budget, for a reduction of the duties on Australian, wine? The continuance of these excessive imposts is causing grave apprehension among vignerons in. this country. I know the Minister has been active in this, matter, but will he please try, try, and try again?
– I shall consider the request that the honorable member has made. I say this instead of giving an immediate affirmative reply because it is literally only a few weeks since the Prime Minister took this matter up personally with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have supplemented the case presented by the Prime Minister both orally and in writing, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has undertaken to consider our representations. As his acquiescence would involve a budget decision in respect of a British customs or excise duty, one would not expect to be informed in advance of any intended action. However, I shall re-examine the position in the light of the honorable member’s representations.
– Will the” Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether it is a fact that the journalist that the Government recently appointed to the highly diplomatic post of Minister to Egypt had been, according to the press, retired from his position on the Sydney Morning Herald because of ill health. If that is a fact, does the Minister still consider that the appointment of such a man to- a post of critical interest at the present time was in the best interests of Australia? Apart from considerations of health, does the Minister think that it was wise to appoint to such a post a person who did not have a particular knowledge of that area, in preference to specially trained officers of his own department?
– It is not a fact that Mr. H. McClure Smith was retired from the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald through ill health. That is not the official attitude of the proprietors of that newspaper. I have discussed the matter since with Mr. McClure Smith, who also has told me that that was not a fact. Before the appointment was offered to him, at my request he underwent a complete medical check-up. Mr. McClure Smith has interested himself in international affairs for a great many years, and his knowledge of these subjects is very far above the average. He has a very distinguished record, and his intellectual capacity is very considerable. I consider that the Government was fortunate to obtain the services of a man of his distinction.
– by leave - I should like to review what has happened in the search for a solution of the Korean question since I last reported to the House on this important subject. I shall confine myself to the broader aspects, as the treatment of the question in the United Nations at the last session of the General Assembly is covered in detail in the report on ‘ that Assembly which I shall lay on the table of the House. The United Nations has achieved its primary objective in Korea by its successful resistance to the Communist aggression from the north. More than this, it has shown any would-be aggressor that his aggression would be met by force. In the dangerous world picture of. to-day, this demonstration by the free world, of its determination to resist aggression has been most valuable. Against this background, members of the United Nations, with the exception of the Soviet bloc,, have over the past eighteen months or so, sought to bring- the fighting to an end. Many meetings have taken place between representatives of the two sides. I have reported on this subject to the House onprevious occasions. A complete armisticeagreement has been reached, and the sole stumbling block to the conclusion of peace has been, for nearly a year, the interpretation of the clauses dealing with prisoners of war. The United Nations insists that prisoners of war should not be repatriated by force against their will. The Communists, on the other hand, insist that all prisoners should be repatriated., by force if necessary. In an effort to solve this prisonerofwar problem, the United Nations Command has made offer after offer, presenting almost every conceivable variation whereby the true desires of prisoners may be impartially tested by either side.by neutral investigation, or by the good offices of the International Red Cross. Such investigation could take place either in the camps or in a neutral area, or in positions between the opposing sides. It should be understood that it was not just a matter of ascertaining the desires of prisoners who, for one reason or another, might prefer to remain in a particular area. The matter at issue was to discover what prisoners of war felt so strongly that they would resist by force any attempts to repatriate them, because they feared for their lives if they were repatriated. The Communist authorities rejected all the offers of the United Nations. Their indifference to the humanitarian aspects of the problem were from time to time made perfectly clear by suggestions on the part of the Chinese that they would be quite prepared to see North Koreans not repatriated provided all Chinese were returned.
The continuing Communist intransigence on this issue, and the fact that meetings of the negotiators had developed into no more than a series of propaganda speeches against the United Nations by the Communist authorities, led the United Nation Command, shortly before the General Assembly met in October, to adjourn the truce negotiations until such time as either the Communist authorities were willing to accept one of the United Nations proposals or a reasonable variation of it, or had something positive to offer themselves. By this time it had become clear that the Communists were not using these military talks for the practical purposes of working out conditions for a cease fire. On the contrary, they regarded it as just one more political arena. The fact is that the United Nations is still willing to negotiate, and the talks can be resumed at any time the other side is readyto make a positive contribution. This was the atmosphere in which the General Assembly of theUnited Nations met last October. It quickly became clear that the great majority of the members wished to get to grips with this problem as soon as possible, and, at my own suggestion, the First Committee, which deals with political and security matters, re-arranged its agenda so as to take Korea immediately.
The first move was what was known as the 21-power resolution, under which countries with forces in Korea and some others presented a proposal which endorsed the work of the United Nations negotiators, supported the principle of the non-forcible repatriation of prisoners, and called on the Communists to agree to an armistice on this basis. However some delegations believed that, however proper and right this 21-power resolution was, it did not go far enough to ensure a cease fire. India was prominent amongst the delegations which held this view. From the start, I welcomed this initiative on the part of India and did all I could to help. In my view it was particularly appropriate that this move was made by India. In the first place, India is an Asian power, and its understanding of China, bythe nature of history and geography and by its diplomatic relationship with the Peking authorities, isconsiderable. In the second place, once we had satisfied ourselves that the Indian proposals demanded no retreat from principle, the approach itself seemed to me to be well worth trying.
The Indian ideas had the full support of all the Arab and Asian powers. We were concerned, of course, to see that it did not do violence to the principle of non-forcible repatriation of prisoners of war and was clear in the machinerythat it proposed. In all we do in relation to Korea, it is important to carry the support of the whole non-Communist world,
We are engaged in a United Nations action, and we are standing upon humanitarian principles. These principles needed the specific endorsement of the member countries of the United Nations - not only those with forces in Korea, hut also the others. The Indian proposal based itself squarely on the Geneva conventions dealing with prisoners of war. The Geneva conventions give to all prisoners of war the right to repatriation. They do not - and this was the basis of the Indian argument - authorize or permit, much less compel, the use of force to carry out that repatriation. While every prisoner may return home if he wishes the prisoner should not he coerced into returning. The Geneva Convention is designed to protect the rights of prisoners and not to restrict them. That is the difference between the two sides : the Communists claim that the right to repatriation should be interpreted as meaning that all prisoners must be repatriated, whereas the United Nations and the Indian resolution were based on the fact that force is not permissible.
The Indian resolution contained provisions for handing over the prisoners to a supervisory commission, where, free of any possibility of physical coercion or military control, the true wishes of the prisoners of war could be discovered. As this supervisory commission was to be composed of Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, it is unlikely that the Communists could have charged it subsequently with misrepresenting the real wishes of the prisoners of war in saying that certain of them did not want to be repatriated. Without bothering honorable members with detail, the simple fact was that the representatives of practically every country in the United Nations supported this sincere and positive attempt to end the fighting in Korea on honorable terms. The 21-powers, whose resolution had been presented first and therefore had priority, gave way to the Indian proposals.
I feel that the House has reason to be satisfied with the part played by Australia in the long and arduous process of reaching a conclusion in the First Committee - a conclusion eventually agreed upon by 54 out of the 60 of its members.
The discussion on Korea lasted from the 22nd October until the 3rd December. Australia not only proposed priority for the Korean item itself, but was also the first of the 21 powers to suggest that the Indian resolution should be given priority in the committee. In all the discussions which went on behind the scenes, Australia consistently advanced the proposition that the Indian proposals, by their nature and by their authorship, stood the best chance of a positive result with the greatest possible support. How were these efforts received on the other side? Four days after the Indian resolution was presented, the leader of the Soviet delegation, Mr. Vishinsky, made an attack of extraordinary violence on the Indian resolution, on its author Mr. Krishna Menon, and, by implication, on the Indian Government. This attack took place before Peking had given any public reaction to the Indian proposals, although it is known that they had been aware of them for some time previously.
The discomfort of the Soviet delegation can be measured by the violence of its reaction. Perhaps, as the proposals came from India fully supported by the rest of the Asian countries, Mr. Vishinsky might have feared there was a chance that, against Russian desires, the Chinese would be tempted to accept them. Mr. Vishinsky, it might be noted, went so far as to say that India had produced a proposal that not only would not end the war in Korea, but was designed to prolong it. To say such a thing about any of the members of the United Nations is absurd, and to say it about India is incredible.
In accordance with customary Russian tactics in the United Nations Mr. Vishinsky advanced further proposals of his own to confuse the issue and to disturb delegations in their voting. He proposed that the whole of the Korean problem, including the prisoner question, should be referred to a “ commission “ for determination. This commission had a slight majority of countries favorable to the principle of non-forcible repatriation, and Mr. Vishinsky made great play of this fact. But, carefully included in his resolution was a proposal that decisions of this commission could be taken only by a two-thirds majority of its members, which effectively gave to the supporters of the Communist line a complete veto on anything which the majority of the commission might think reasonable. In addition, Mr. Vishinsky at the last moment, in the third revision of his resolution, incorporated a call for an immediate cease fire, after which the problem of prisoners of war and the general problem of the unification of Korea could be attacked. This is a technique which the Russians use with monotonous frequency. They inject the idea of easy peace into an otherwise unacceptable proposal in order to force people into a position that can be described in Russian propaganda as “ voting against peace “. The effect of his proposal on this occasion would have been that our own soldiers who are prisoners of war would have become permanent hostages, to be released only when the free world made enough concessions for the achievement of the political programme of the Communists in Asia. Mr. Vishinsky’s proposals were voted upon, and were defeated by large majorities.
The Indian resolution, with its own call for a cease fire, based on the proposals which were incorporated in it, was adopted by a majority of 54 to five - the Soviet Union and its satellites - with Nationalist China abstaining. The resolution was sent to Peking by the President of the General Assembly, together with a letter which in every sentence showed the sincere anxiety of the majority of the members of the United Nations to reach a peaceful settlement as soon as possible. It was rejected summarily by both the Chinese Communists and the North Koreans, and the only alternative put up was that the Assembly should rescind the so-called :’ illegal” Indian resolution and pass the Soviet resolution, which put off, virtually forever, the settlement of the vital point at issue between the negotiating parties. That is where the matter rests so far as the United Nations is concerned ; but, since the resolution was adopted, another event of the greatest importance has occurred - the assumption of office in the United States of America of a new Administration. It is still too early to know what the effect of this change will be; so far, the changes have been only in emphasis rather than in the substance of United States foreign policy.
The most important recent development i.r. the region is President Eisenhower’s announcement that the United States Seventh Fleet would no longer be used to neutralize Formosa. That has already been a subject of public comment by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by me. The original decision in 1950 to use- American forces in this way was made by President Truman, without consultation with other countries, and never became a United Nations matter. The same is true of Genera] Eisenhower’s reversal of the order. The employment of American forces is, in itself, a matter for the United States Government. Other countries are, of course, concerned in any consequences that might result from the Chinese Nationalist Government’s having greater freedom of action, and I also appreciate that there is speculation about whether this is just the first of a-series of actions and, if so, what actions. The Australian Government has been in touch with the United States Government on these questions, as a part of the regular and intimate consultations that have become established between us. We have also been in constant touch with the United Kingdom and the governments of other Commonwealth countries. It is the policy of the Australian Government to avoid extension of the Korean conflict. I am convinced that it is also the desire of the United States Government to avoid, if possible, anything that might lead to American forces having to be committed on the mainland of China, and that there is no thought in Washington to use the Formosa decision as a stepping stone to a wider and bigger conflict.
I must admit, however, to some impatience with those who, while looking for every conceivable excuse and explanation for Communist excesses and intransigence, keep telling the democracies that they must be careful not to offend the rampaging aggressor, and that we should appease him. Of course, we must work to avoid an extension of hostilities. That is our policy. But where does the threat of such an extension come from? It comes from Communist imperialism. It is Communist imperialism that tried to swallow up the independent Republic of Korea, that led the Peking regime to war ; and it is Communist imperialism that has persisted in the aggression and has rejected all attempts to end hostilities on a just and reasonable basis. It is Communist imperialism that is trying to extend the area of fighting in the world, by its intrusions in Indo-China, its armed subversion in Malaya, and its stirring-up of hatred and unrest wherever it sees an opportunity to do so.
In our consideration of the Korean problem, and in our efforts to find a solution of it, we must not forget the actual fighting that is going on and the misery that has been brought to so many innocent people, particularly, of course, in Korea, itself. The Korean people have suffered more than any one. Their courage and determination to fight for their national independence has been remarkable. The army of the Republic of Korea is being built up steadily and already holds more than half of the front line. Apart from their considerable part in the fighting, the Koreans ‘ face tremendous economic difficulties because of the destruction of their towns and villages, and the great scarcity of foodstuffs, and because more than 70 per cent, of the national budget has to be devoted to the armed forces. In these circumstances inflation was inevitable, but I am glad to say that the United Nations, through its Korean reconstruction agency, Unkra, is now doing more to help to grapple with that problem, by bringing in additional grain and fertilizers and supplementing the large amount of civil assistance already given by the United States of America. Relations between Australia and the Republic of Korea have been close since the outbreak of hostilities, beginning with the committing of the Royal Australian Air Force in the first week of the Korean war. Last week it was announced that the Republic of Korea had appointed a consul-general to Australia.
Of all the members of United Nations, the United States of America has borne the heaviest burden. Let us not forget that, with the Korean hostilities well advanced in their third year, no fewer than 1,500,000 American servicemen have served in the Korean theatre, aid have suffered 130,000 casualties. It has been a long and grim struggle. The Communists are playing upon the desire of the democratic countries not to prolong troublesome situations, but to get them over and done with. They hope that we shall get tired of the whole matter, and settle on their terms, or on any terms rather than have the whole question remain unsettled. Communists think in long terms, and are prepared to wait. We must be prepared to show them, if necessary, that we are just as patient and even more determined.
We cannot consider only the costs of the Korean operation. We have also to think of the costs of the alternatives. It is probable that the alternative to resisting armed aggression when it first occurred in Korea would have been, later on, a third world war. It might have begun somewhere else in the world, in resistance to the ever-expanding aggression that would have been the consequence of our failure to stand firm in the first instance. The fighting in Korea is a blow against a third world war. Our resistance has brought new hope to other governments which might have been brought into the line of fire by some subsequent act of aggression. The Korean campaign is a part of’ the world-wide policy of the free world, acting in strict accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. That policy is to build up our own strength so that we shall be able to resist an attack; to fulfil our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations if one of our number is attacked ; to carry out at the same time a positive policy of helping the less developed countries to make better use of their resources and so raise their living standards; and to be ready at all times to consider any proposal to ease tensions or to end the present hostilities in Korea, provided it does not sanction aggression and does not sacrifice principle.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Korea - Ministerial statement, 24th February, 1953. and move -
That the paper be printed. ‘
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page 31), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.Cal well. - The Opposition agrees to that course because it will facilitate the debate on the measures. At the end of the debate, each measure will be voted on separately, and in the committee stage, each bill will be disposed of separately.
– That will be in order.
Mr.CALL WELL (Melbourne) [3.47J.- The Opposition opposes these two bills. The Land Tax Abolition Bill 1953 is described as “ A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Acts of Parliament relating to Land Tax, and for purposes connected therewith”. The Taxation Administration Bill 1953 is described as “ A Bill for an Act to provide for the administration of certain Acts relating to taxation, and for purposes connected therewith “. The Land Tax Abolition Bill sets out, in the schedule, a list of acts which it is proposed to repeal. Eight land tax acts, from 1910 to 1952, are to be repealed, in addition to a large number of land tax assessment acts passed between 1910 and 1952. Strangely enough, the bill proposes to repeal also the Land Tax Abolition Act 1952. This Government apparently intends to wipe the slate clean of land taxation. The Australian Labour party opposes that intention and desires to remind the Parliament that the acts which the Land Tax Abolition Bill 1953 proposes to repeal were enacted by the Fisher Government, the Hughes Government. the Bruce-Page Government, the Scullin Government, the Lyons Government and the first Menzies Government, which, apparently, now believes that it is a good thing to get rid of land taxation altogether. Every government that I have mentioned adopted the principle of land taxation in the spirit in which it was introduced by the Fisher Government, which was, first, to break up big estates and, secondly, to raise revenues. However, something happened approximately a year ago, and the Government succumbed to the influence of big city business and big vested interests. Legislation, which has remained on the statutebooks of this country for 40 years, is now to be repealed.
The Government considers that it is making a forward move. The Opposition believes that it is taking a retrograde step. In the opinion of the Australian Labour party, the only beneficiaries of this legislation will be the banking interests of Australia, the city emporiums, insurance companies, chain stores, newspaper offices and institutions of that kind. In other words, the beneficiaries will be those who control monopolies, such as big city companies. It is completely wrong and false to assert that the beneficiaries of the legislation will be those who happen to hold the freehold title to land in country areas. In the first instance, this Government raised the tax exemption on land from £5,000, at which it had remained from 1910, to £8,750. I suggest that there are no poor farmers who own land of an unimproved value of £8,750. Most of the people who hold such land are big squatters and graziers, who can well afford to look after themselves, not small farmers putting their land to its full productive use.
All of a sudden this Government decided to repeal legislation which has been in force for many years. In consequence, great benefits have accrued to sections of the community that do not deserve them and do not need them. It was preposterous for the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to argue, when he introduced the land tax abolition legislation on the 25th September last, and to which the Land Tax Abolition Bill now before us is complementary, that the persons who would benefit from the legislation would be the men on the land who work with their hands. Such men receive no benefit at all from the remission of land tax.
We of the Australian Labour party have always believed that the land is the patrimony of the people and that nobody has a complete and absolute title to it.
We believe that the public interest demands, and has always demanded, that all land should be used to produce to its maximum capacity. We also believe that those who own the land of this country and do not use it to produce its maximum benefit, who do not put it to its full productive use, can have no complaint if the Government compulsorily acquires it, or if a government, as all governments have done over the last 40 years, imposes land taxation and employs such a system of taxation as will compel persons who have more land than they can use to sell it on just terms to those who will put it to beneficial use. In the course of another debate in this House, I pointed to the fact that Denmark has a system of land taxation on unimproved values. That system is common to all the Scandinavian countries, which are happy, contented and prosperous to-day. Other countries, such as Spain, Egypt and Italy, to mention only three, do not enjoy such legislation, and it is well known that in those countries there are great extremes of wealth and poverty. There one finds a few rich landlords, while the great mass of the people are living under sub-standard conditions. There is grave discontent in such countries, and that discontent is the breeding ground of communism and every other anti-social creed. Consequently, that system of land ownership cannot be beneficial to the peace of the world and does not promote human happiness. We are now to repeal all the Commonwealth legislation that deals with land taxation, and we are going to allow wealthy people to buy up small farms as they become available. There will be an aggregation of land into fewer and fewer hands and there will be more and more land-hungry sons of farmers looking for land on which to set up their homes. Moreover, the ex-servicemen of the last world war will be still unable to get land, because wealthy corporations will, because of what the Government has done, find it profitable to build up big estates and run cattle on them instead of allowing the land to be used as the Fisher Government intended it to be used, that is by persons who will farm it properly.
The land belongs to the people, and its use must be safeguarded and protected at all times. Unfortunately, there are some persons who think otherwise. Some persons have made a system of land taxation a political creed, and have formed a party whose policy is that there should be only one tax - that on land - and that all other taxes should be abolished. The Labour party has not gone as far as that, but it has always believed that a land tax is a much fairer tax than a sales tax or than customs and excise duties. Land taxation at least makes those who own the laud put it to proper use. Now every encouragement will be given to wealthy people not to use the land to its best advantage.
Fortunately, the States still have the right to impose land taxes, and since the remission last year of the federal land tax and the handing back of £7,000,000 of the people’s revenue to those who do not need it, some State treasurers have increased their rates of State land taxation. I believe that the Premier of South Australia has imposed State taxation to bring his receipts from land taxes to the level of what was paid in South Australia before the Australian Government remitted its land taxes. As a consequence of his action, some people are not as happy as they might be. It should also be remembered that the Premier of South Australia is the last non-Labour Premier in Australia, and he has only a fortnight to go before he, too, will be replaced by a Labour Premier. The State Premiers have been very concerned recently about their revenues, and I suggest that here is an additional £7,000,000 that they might collect from fields that the Commonwealth has vacated. If they raise that additional revenue they may be able to reduce the deficits that they now see ahead of them. The remission last year of land taxes amounted to a free gift to 21,000 taxpayers who owned land of more than the value of £8,750.
Anybody who considers the future of Australia and is concerned with what might happen in that future, wants as many big properties as possible to be broken up. We wish to unlock the land and put a lot more people on it. The taxing of land will do that. When I say that I do not speak of the land in the western part of New South Wales or Queensland, or in the north of South Australia, or the large areas in northwestern Victoria. I speak of land within a few hundreds of miles of the capital cities which can be made available to settlers.
– And in the Western Districts of Victoria.
– That is a part of Australia where a great amount of the land is held by the descendants of the original squatters, and although the Fisher legislation had the effect of the breaking up of a number of estates, the principal of which was Ercildoune, there is still much to much land in Victoria held by a few people. The States can resume land, as was suggested by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) but I would prefer to break up large estates by land taxation. I would impose heavy land taxes rather than use the long and costly process of land resumption with all its difficulties. Any value that land has anywhere in Australia to-day is entirely due to the settlement of people on and near it. Unearned increment is not the property of the descendants of those who were first lucky enough to squat on those areas. It was the community that created the value, and to the community the value belongs. That is our view. It sounds revolutionary to a number of other people, but we shall never have a happy community until all the land-hungry sons of Australian fanners, all the new Australians and, in particular, all the ex-servicemen who want land, have the opportunity to get that land at reasonable cost. We know that the ex-servicemen who settled on the land after the first world war, because of the exorbitant prices many people charged them for the land and because of the exorbitant rates of interest charged by the banks, had to walk off it. Only one honorable member of this Parliament who was an ex-serviceman settler after World War I. is still on the land. That is the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod). That honorable member can tell the House of his experiences as a settler. If we had more land taxation and less sales taxation we would not have the degree of inflation that we have at present. If there is to be an incentive for the land to be used properly, there should be a movement from the poorer land to the better land in Australia to which the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has referred. If the land that is not at present profitably used were used to better advantage we should have a higher standard of living from the same effort by those engaged in working the land.
– Do you really think that would happen under socialism?
– I am not talking about socialism. The single tax people have been strongly anti-socialist, and in South Australia particularly the propaganda for single taxing has been most sedulously propagated for a long time. As a matter of fact, quite a number of exponents of the single tax seemed to gravitate to the Australian Country party in its early days, but unfortunately after that party sold out to big city interests, it ceased to bc interested in the land. Scarcely one member of the Australian Country party who is in this Parliament is a working farmer and therefore its parliamentary representatives have ceased to know anything about the subject. As a matter of strict fact, more members of the Liberal party in this Parliament than members of the Australian Country party are farmers. A number of honorable members who support the Australian Labour party also work on the land.
This particular piece of legislation gives a handout of £7,000,000 to wealthy interests to which I have referred. It was enacted without any mandate from the people. Honorable members may search the policy speeches that were delivered by the Leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in 1949 and 1951, but they will find no reference in them to the repeal of the land tax. The Government therefore has no authority from the people to repeal the land tax. It had no authority either for handing back through the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) £200,000 to wealthy timber importers in the remission of duties. Only the big people have benefited from the actions of this Government. In a previous debate I referred to the intereststhat had benefited fromthe enactmentof thislegislation. The seven principal banks operating in Australia received a total of £275,000 in the remission of taxes for head offices and city branches in four capital cities alone. The shareholders of two British-owned banks in Australiaprobably have never seen Australia and never will. Their only interest in it lies in the money that they can make from their investments but they have received remissions totalling £90,000 in respect of the same type of head offices and city branches only. I refer to the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, and the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. Of course all honorable members know why the banking interests want to see this Government returned to office. The Government hands them money and the banks pay it back to the Liberal party for its election expenses.
The unimproved value of land that is held by three of the principal city emporiums in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide totals £6,613,000. They will get a handout of £244,000. The beneficiaries include Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited. David Jones Limited will receive three times as much as Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited because David Jones Limited is three times as good a supporter of the Liberal party. Farmer and Company Limited will receive twice as much as Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited. I could give the figures relating to the other capital cities as well as Sydney, and the same story holds with regard to them. The chain stores also will receive great benefits. G. J. Coles and Company Limited, who are strong financial supporters of every anti-Labour cause, set out in their balance-sheets that the value of their freehold properties, land and buildings, is £3,500,000. I have not had an opportunity to dissect the items to discover what proportion of those assets is unimproved land, but no doubt that organization will receive very substantial benefits because it has many branches throughout Australia. Woolworths Limited is in a similar position, but the details relating to it are more difficult to discover. The organization has one company called Woolworths Limited which shows the value of its freehold land and buildings at £10,000. It appears to be a Sydney company. Woolworths (Victoria.) Limited has freehold land and buildings valued at £500,000. Woolworths, Properties Limited, which seems to be a holding company, values its freehold land and buildings at £1,830,000. It is difficult to discover which of these companies is getting the benefit from this legislation.
I have been assiduous in trying to get the facts on this matter. I raised it with the Treasurer and I receiveda reply from him in September, 1952. In that reply, the right honorable gentleman toldme that the figures that I wanted were being tabulated but they were not readily available. He added -
The Commonwealth Statistician does not think he will be in a position to tabulate the advices, when complete, until early in the New Year and possibly later as his machine capacity will be fully engaged until that time. It would seem clear, therefore, that there is no possibility of obtaining statistical details of the 1951-52 assessmentsuntil March, 1953, at the earliest and probably about May, 1953.
I was not quite satisfied with that so I wrote directly to one of the deputy commissioners. I received advice similar to what I have been able to collect from the townclerks of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, and from the Deputy Commissioner I received advice similar to what I had received from the Treasurer. He stated that he hoped that certain information could be supplied to me at a later date and added -
This information will be derived from the land tax statistics of the 1951-1952 assessment and will show the following information: -
Improved value as returned by taxpayer.
Unimproved value as returned by taxpayer.
Unimproved value as assessed by department.
Net tax assessed by department.
But honorable members should have that information before them now while this legislation is being considered. Why do we have to wait until months after the legislation is passed, until the Parliament has been in recess for several months and the Government has been defeated in the Senate elections so that it will be unable to do anything about it anyhow before we can get the information we want? I have asked for details, but the department is so far behind that it can supply me with information only in respect of 1941-42. That was the year when the pegging of land values was introduced. I have been told that those figures will be made available to me if they are of any value. Obviously they ave of little value. When this Government set cut to abolish the land tax, it should have compiled all the relevant information for the benefit of honorable members. We should not be treated to the vague and nebulous type of speech that has been presented to us. That happened in 1952 and now it has been repeated. The Labour party believes in the land tax and will re-introduce it if it believes that it is desirable to do so. It will re-introduce the land tax on the big city properties. It is Labour party PolICy. The land tax is the fairest of all taxes. The wealthy people should not be allowed to escape their fair share of taxation in these very difficult times. If the Government has £7.000,000 to give away, let it increase social services benefits for the people. It should give the money to those who need assistance most - the unemployed - and not to the “ silvertails “’ and those who have no need for it.
It is most significant that those who will derive the greatest benefit from this legislation are the financial backers of the Government. The purpose of the measure is,not to give effect to some great principle but to ease the burden of taxation on those of the Government’s supporters who have been exerting the heaviest pressure on it.
– The breweries will benefit most from the abolition of the tax.
– Some of them will. Tooth and Company Limited pay 5 per cent, of all the land tax paid in Australia and, as a result of this measure, the company will receive a remission of tax equal to 5 per cent, of £7,000,000. If the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is any good ai; mental arithmetic, he will be able to work out very quickly the extent to whish the company will benefit from this legislation.
– The brewers contribute to- the funds of the Australian Labour party.
– They give nothing to the Labour party as far as I know, but they certainly give a great deal to the party of which the honorable gentleman is a member. If the brewers contributed to the funds of the Labour party the New South Wales Labour Government would not have appointed a royal commission to inquire into their activities. The honorable member can make his apologia to the people in a few minutes time and then tell them why he is helping to pass this legislation.
We believe the land tax to be socially necessary. If the land tax is abolished many small farms will be bought up by wealthy people. The members of the Australian Country party should be the first to defend the rights of the small farmer against the wealthy monopolists. Thehonorable member for Maranoa (Mr.. Brimblecombe) may not have been present in the chamber when I said a few minutesago that there is not one working farmer among all the representatives of the Australian Country party in this Parliament, and that they all dwell in. the cities. Indeed, there are far mora farmers in the Liberal party than there are in the so-called Australian Countryparty. let us recall what has happened in South Australia in connexion with land transactions. I am indebted to Mr. Craigie, a member of the South Australian Parliament, for the very interesting compilation of facts on this subject that he presented to that legislative body some years ago. Mr. Craigie dealt with a property in South Australia which was purchased for a very small sum of money and subsequenly sold to the Featherstone family who leased it to the Young Men’s Christian Association. At that .time no worthwhile land tax was imposed in South Australia. Over a period of 40 years the Featherstone estate was in the happy position of getting a total return of £153,000 f rom the Young Men’s Christian Association for land, which was originally purchased for only £500. Thus, the Featherstone family lived on a great Christian organization. We also have the famous case of the Howey estate in Melbourne in which a two-acre block which was bought for about £140 and, at the turn of this century, had an unimproved value of £600,000, is now worth a fabulous sum. The land is still owned by the descendants of the original buyer who was lost at sea. Through the years they have lived on the work and endeavour of the Victorian people. We have always believed in the land tax, and when happy days come again we shall restore the measure imposing the tax to the statute-book of this country.
– I support this measure with very great pleasure. Every genuine landholder in Australia is pleased that the Government has decided to rectify the injustice imposed on the landholders of Australia ever since the land tax was first instituted. As honorable members are aware, the land tax was instituted in 1910 by the Fisher Labour Government. The debates that took place in the Parliament at that time show that great emphasis was placed upon the need for the tax as a means of breaking up large estates with a view to enabling city dwellers to settle on the laud. In 1908, the area of alienated land which the Fisher Labour Government wished to get its claws on, represented only 4.82 per cent, of the land of the country and 94.98 per cent; of the land was held by the Grown. In 1948, the total area of alienated lands represented only 7.54 per cent, of the land of Australia. Only that small percentage of land was then held in fee simple or under some other form of freehold tenure, and 94.98 per cent, was held by the Crown. In 1948 only 5.3 per cent, of the land of Queensland had been alienated and the great bulk was held by the Crown.
– A good idea, too.
– In a sweeping statement the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that he would not interfere with the rights of the outback dweller. I remind him that outback areas are almost totally held by the Crown. Very little of the western lands of Queensland and New South Wales is not held by the Crown or completely vacant. The figures I have cited show that in 40 years, instead of being reduced by land tax, freehold land actually increased and land tax has not resulted in the lessening of the area of alienated land. It is unjust and inequitable. In order to obtain increased revenue State Labour Administrations have doubled the valuations of city land.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that many members of the Australian Country party have never been practical farmers. That may be true of a few of my colleagues. But does the honorable member suggest that every member of the Australian Labour party should be a waterside worker, or a worker on the roads, or employed in manual work? We have no evidence that members of the Opposition are engaged, or ever have been engaged, in such work. I have been engaged on the land since I left school.
I have always opposed the imposition of land tax by either the Commonwealth Government or a State government. The honorable member for Melbourne said that it was necessary to retain land tax as a means of breaking up big holdings and that by abolishing the tax under this measure the Government was merely helping big companies. Nothing is farther from the truth. Persons who own, or occupy, any of the 7.54 per cent, of all land in this country that has been alienated are obliged to nay three land taxes. They are Commonwealth land tax, State land tax and the tax imposed in the form of rates by local government authorities. This Government has introduced this measure in order to remove an unjustifiable land tax which cannot but adversely affect primary production. A tax on land is a tax on the instrument whereby the primary producer earns his livelihood. Therefore, it should be removed. No government taxes a tradesman’s tools, or the quill of the honorable member which he uses in order to make a livelihood. The land from which tax will be removed under this measure has been purchased from the Crown or in few instances has been pioneered by the forbears of those who now occupy it. Their pioneering work helped bring about the provision of communications and transport, including railways, which, resulted in extended settlement. Later the provision of wharfs in our ports for the shipment of primary products overseas ‘became necessary. Those pioneers acquired rights of ownership of land in the early days and their successors, who can be counted on the fingers of one hand, are entitled to have such rights preserved to them. They are entitled to enjoy such rights, but members of the Australian Labour party are determined to filch them from them. The honorable member for Melbourne declared that if Labour were returned to office, it would re-introduce the tax which is to be abolished under this measure. Indeed, he 3aid that his party would impose land tax ‘at rates much higher than existing rates. I have not the slightest doubt that Labour, if it is ever returned to office in the future, will confiscate freehold land as part of its policy of socialization.
-. - “What is socialization?
– Socialization means the taking of the other fellow’s property, if possible, for nothing and using it for yourself. The Fisher Government introduced land, tax in 1910 with the object of breaking up large holdings. The tax is now unnecsary for that purpose. Indeed, its application to land in capital cities and large towns has been most unfair and unjustifiable. The tax could never be regarded as a means of breaking up land occupied by big emporiums, such as Anthony Hordern and. Sons Limited and David Jones Limited as a means of providing land for settlers. It would be quite, senseless to contend that the imposition of land tax on city properties is a means of breaking them up. In instances in which properties such as wool firms and banks throughout Australia are owned by large companies, ownership is shared by the persons who have invested in such companies. The Australian Labour party, by advocating such a policy, is determined to drive those companies out of business.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that the Government had no mandate to abolish land tax. My reply to that assertion is that the Chifley Labour Government had no mandate to seize the private banks or steal the deposits of private persons in those institutions. Fortunately the High Court ruled that such legislation was ultra vires the Constitution, and thus prevented the theft which the Government sought to perpetrate. Whilst that Government had no authority to take such action, every government has ample authority to reduce taxes. During the 42 years that I have been a member of the Queensland Parliament and of this Parliament I have always urged that both Commonwealth and State land tax should be abolished. The honorable member for Melbourne said that by abolishing land tax, the Government would be giving a benefit only to the big rag merchants in the cities and to shipping interests. The fact is that under this measure all persons who have acquired land, including exservicemen who have acquired holdings since World War II., will be relieved of an unjustifiable impost-
– Ex-servicemen who have settled on the land do not pay land tax.
– They do on freehold land; and they are obliged to pay State land tax and local government rates in addition to Commonwealth land tax. Indeed, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) illustrated the unfairness of State land tax in a question which he directed earlier to-day to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) when he pointed out that old-age pensioners had been adversely affected by the action of the Valuer-General in New South Wales in doubling the value of houses which they owned and occupied. Fortunately, as the Minister pointed out, the value of houses which pensioners own and occupy is not taken into account in the application of the means test. Land values in Queensland have increased by as much as 300 per cent. State land tax will increase in proportion.
Rates that are imposed by local government authorities are the only form of land tax that can possibly be justified. Rates are the only source of revenue available to such bodies for the financing of their operations from which all persons living within their boundaries derive benefit. The honorable member for Melbourne was incorrect when he said that the abolition of land tax under this measure would completely relieve owners of land from the payment of land tax. They will be obliged to continue to pay State land tax and local government rates. The man on the land pays a variety of taxes including sales tax on his implements and vehicles, road tax and petrol .tax. Under this measure, he will be relieved of only one tax.’ The majority of Australians to-day are urging governments to reduce taxes and the strongest case for such reductions can be made in respect of taxes that are now payable by primary producers. Continuance of land tax in respect of city properties will serve no useful purpose whatever. I warn every shareholder in companies that own city properties that if Labour is returned to power in the future it will tax their investments, be they big or small, to the utmost. Those people should remember that fact a few weeks hence when they decide how the new Senate shall be constituted, because the Labour party has made the position plain that if returned to office, it will re-impose the land tax.
The honorable gentleman should also not forget the fact that in our great effort to settle this young country, many socialist enterprises have failed. Production is greatest when the land is farmed by the man who owns the freehold of it. Let us abolish the land tax, and encourage men to buy properties, and develop them.
– -I should like to put in the proper perspective some of the figures that have been quoted by the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) in relation to the alienation of land in Australia. The area of this country is approximately 3,000,000 square miles, or 1,900,000,000 acres. The latest figures available, according to the Pocket Compendium of Australian Statistics for 1952, show that the total area of alienated land ‘at the 30th December, 1950, was 146^455,000 acres which, for all practical purposes, confirms the honorable member’s statement that approximately 7f per cent, of the total area of Australia is alienated. The second category in the publication is “ land in process of alienation, 34,513,000 acres “, the third category is “land held under lease or licence, 1,027,798,000 acres”, and the fourth category is “ Crown land, 694,966,000 acres “, which apparently is land not at present occupied, alienated or leased in any way.
What should be borne in mind, because this is the purpose of the land tax, is that not all the land in the community is equally valuable. The honorable member for Wide Bay .cannot refute that statement. As long ago as 1908, when, according to his statement, the alienated land represented 4.82 per cent, of the total area, the bulk of -the best land had already been alienated. Every one knows that there are certain areas which, from the : stand-point, of cultivation or development, cannot be alienated in the sense he has described. Various areas which have not yet been alienated can be settled successfully if a certain amount of expenditure is incurred on them. But, by and large, the best land in Australia was taken in 1950, and a good part of it had been taken in 1910, when the land “tax was introduced.
Nobody will seriously contest the assertion that all that good land at present occupied is held in too few hands, and that the land which is already alienated could be settled more intensively. The land is alienated, but it is not necessarily alienated to the best social use. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) attempted to point out in his speech, the government of the .day had in mind the social heritage when imposing the land tax. A person, merely because he got here in 1908, should not have a. prescriptive right as against a person who comes to this country thirty or forty years later. But the best land in the best parts of Australia, has been held by the same families for generation .after generation, and they have not always used it to the best social advantage. Again, that statement cannot be seriously contested.
The purpose of the Labour Government, when it imposed the land tax, was to break up those estates. Unfortunately, that objective was not attained largely because, although A Labour government imposed the land tax, a Labour government did not come into office again before the outbreak of World War II. The Labour party was then not able to apply the land tax to the purpose for which it had been introduced, and the administration of the tax was virtually in the hands of conservative governments, who would not employ it as a weapon to break up large estates. The Government, if it examines this matter properly, should realize that the repeal of the Land Tax Act will simultaneously create other social problems. It is because those problems have been ignored that I shall examine the situation briefly during the few minutes at my disposal in this debate.
The honorable member for Melbourne has pointed out that it is difficult for us to obtain adequate statistics on this important subject, because the Commissioner of Taxation ha3 not compiled them for more than ten years. I hope, that as the tax is being abolished, he will not fail to publish the figures for the financial year 1951-52. He has written on page 58 of his thirtieth report -
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 thirty-second or thirty-third report.
The thirtieth report was produced on the 22nd February, 1952, and, therefore, it appears that the statistics to which I refer will not be available before 1954. However, I hope that even though the tax is to be abolished, those figures will be published, because they will give us a. more up to date picture of the situation than we have at the present time. Although the latest available figures are in respect of the year 1941-42, nevertheless an examination of them reveals that this legislation is, as honorable members on this side of the chamber have suggested, virtually the repeal of a measure which affects very few people in the community and affects them to a considerable degree. The figures have already been cited, but I shall cite them again to keep them in mind. They are taken from the seventh schedule of the twenty-fourth report of the Commissioner of Taxation at page 28. In 1941-42 there were 21,92.1 payers of land tax, and between them they paid £3,787,000. However, 98 of the 21,921 taxpayers between them contributed £1,531,000. Therefore, at the land values ruling in those days, if that £1,531,000 were contributed equally by the 98 taxpayers - we all realize that it is not - the individual benefit from the repeal of the land tax legislation would be approximately £15,000. As land values have approximately doubled since 1941-42, we can assume that land tax revenue last year, instead of being £3,787,000, was nearer £7,000,000. Therefore, the 98 taxpayers to whom I have referred probably paid not £1,531,000, but about £3,000,000, and the individual benefit under this repealing legislation will be about £30,000.
There is another point to which I believe the Government should direct its attention. The Parliament is being asked to repeal legislation which imposes a tax on land. Consideration should be given to the imposition of a capital increment tax on properties which are to be freed from that tax because the repeal of the land tax will result in an inflation of property values. The economic argument is, I believe, put in this way : When a. person is considering the purchase of a certain piece of land, say a sheep station hi a particular locality, in calculating the price that he is prepared to pay for that property, he estimates the income that he is likely to derive from it. In so doing he must consider the costs that he will have to meet and one of those costs is, of course, the land tax that is payable on the property. Some economists argue that the land tax is ineffective because it tends to become capitalized in the hands of existing owners. They claim that if the rate of land tax is increased during the term of ownership of a certain individual, the value of his land, theoretically at any rate, declines by a commuted sum. However, we are more interested at the moment in the reverse argument that the repeal of the land tax will mean, in effect, the payment of a capital bonus to the landowner. I believe, therefore, that in conjunction with this repealing legislation, the Government should introduce a capital increment tax to be imposed on properties which, because land tax is no longer payable upon them, are sold at inflated values. The increment on such properties should not go to the individual concerned, but should be paid into Consolidated Revenue and used as the nucleus of a fund to further land settlement in areas not already alienated. Indeed, the proceeds of the land tax should have never gone into Consolidated
Revenue. Unfortunately the tax has been treated by successive governments, mostly conservative administrations, as an additional source of revenue; but the tax originally had social implications which could only have been given expression if the proceeds of the tax had been paid into a separate fund to be used for land settlement purposes. For instance, the £7,000,000 which we can assume was collected from the land tax last year would, had it been withheld from consolidated revenue, have enabled the Government to make a real contribution to solving the problem of increasing primary production about which honorable members opposite are always talking. Primary production will not be increased so long as the matter is left in the hands of wealthy landowners who, if they are not satisfied with the prices that are ruling for say, milk and cream, can threaten to cut the throats of their cows. If a workman made such a threat, honorable members opposite would regard him as a revolutionary; but apparently behaviour of that kind is applauded by the individuals who pay lip service to the increase of primary production.
Had the Government been realistic in its approach to the problem of increasing primary production, instead of repealing the land tax it could have decided that, as the tax had not achieved its original objectives, the time had arrived to apply the revenue derived from it in a more useful manner. If the Government felt that it had £7,000,000 to spare, it could have devoted that money to benefiting some other section of the community instead of introducing this class legislation. As I have pointed out, 40 per cent, of the land tax revenue is paid by 98 out of more than 21,000 taxpayers and 30 per cent, is paid by another 484 taxpayers out of that 21,000. In fact, 70 per cent, of the land tax revenue is paid by less than 600 taxpayers. If those who argue that the repeal of the land tax will encourage an expansion of primary production will examine the figures, they will find that a substantial proportion of the land tax revenue comes not from country properties but from what are described as town lands. I hope that the effect of the repeal of the land tax on rented city properties will be noted by the Government of Victoria and that action will be taken accordingly. The land tax liability is taken into consideration in determining rents payable for properties, and I trust that owners of land on which land tax is to be remitted under this legislation, will pass the benefit on to their tenants in lower rents, but I am not very confident that that will be done by many individuals who to-day are clamouring for lower taxes. “We on this side of the chamber are proud of the fact that the land tax was introduced by the Fisher Labour Government and we regard the repeal of the tax as a backward step.
We are considering not one but two measures. In addition to the bill which actually repeals the tax we have before us the Taxation Administration Bill. An examination of the schedule at the end of that measure reveals the Commissioner of Taxation as a man of many parts. The measures which the Taxation Administration Bill affects include the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act, the Estate Duty Assessment Act, the Gift Duty Assessment Act, the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act, the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act, the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1), the Sales Tax Procedure Act, the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act, the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act, and the Wool Tax Assessment Act. However, in spite of the ramifications of the Taxation Administration Bill, very little has been said about it. As I have pointed out, the Commissioner of Taxation is undoubtedly a man of many parts. I do not say that in any unkind spirit because the gentleman is a friend of mine. I draw the attention of the House to clause 8 of the Taxation Administration Act. I hope that, by the time that the committee stage has been reached on that measure, the Government will have thrown a little more light on to the meaning of some of the words of that clause. It provides - (1.) The Commissioner of Taxation may, in relation to a matter or class of matters, or in relation to a State or part of the Commonwealth, by writing under his hand, delegate to a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation . . .
I should like to be informed clearly of the purpose of that provision. Does it, for instance, envisage the Commissioner of Taxation saying to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in any State, “ Any matters that arise under the terms of this provision you shall be able to determine for yourself , I delegate to you my authority in this matter.”?
Under the system of uniform taxation, our income tax laws apply uniformly to individuals in all parts of Australia. Will this provision open the door to the making of a variety of interpretations of the same subject-matter in different States? I should like to have this point clarified, because it was mentioned only briefly by the Treasurer in his second reading speech. The right honorable gentleman merely said that powers could be delegated in some circumstances. I trust that he will explain at the committee stage what is meant by the words “ matter or class of matters “. It would be dangerous to authorize Deputy Commissioners of Taxation in different States to place their own varied interpretations upon similar subject-matters. There may be some force in the objection that the necessity to refer every decision to the Commissioner of Taxation at Canberra leads to delays, but at least that system ensures uniformity of application of our tax laws and preserves justice as between individual tax payers. The proposal to permit the Commissioner of Taxation to delegate his powers may refer only to certain minor matters, but the point should be made clear before the Parliament is called upon to approve of the legislation. I realize, of course, that the Commissioner of Taxation must find it difficult at times to make himself directly responsible for all decisions that must be made on taxation matters. The Opposition objects to the Land Tax Abolition Bill because it believes that land tax should not be abolished.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), in his reply to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), spoke of the area of land in Australia that has been alienated, some of which has been subject to land tax. I remind him that this area, which represents 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, of the whole land mass of Australia, has been alienated under European or English methods of agriculture. Thank goodness, at this stage of Australia’s development, we are entering upon an era of agriculture in which purely Australian methods will be used. We are reaping the fruits of the work of scientists, particularly those of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, who have discovered, for example, the effects of trace elements upon land in high rainfall areas. As a result of their findings, a much greater area of land will be made available on which we shall be able to graze our herds, and plough and grow crops. Too long have we judged our land by English standards of agriculture. Now the research work of able and brilliant scientists has made it possible for us to make more efficient use of our soil. I have in mind particularly’ the work of a man mimed Rich in south-eastern South Australia, who discovered that the application of zinc and cobalt in almost infinitesimal quantities - perhaps as much as will cover a sixpenny piece to each acre of land - can bring more land into production.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports spoke of 146,000,000 acres of alienated land. That area should be doubled as a result of the work of our scientists. We are passing through a period of transition into a new era of increased productivity of foods and fibres. These remarks are not strictly relevant to the measures that we are considering, hut I make them in order to correct thu statements of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He said - and his remarks are important because he may have an influence upon the future conduct of affairs in Australia - that the Government should introduce a capital increment tax. Our income tax laws at present encourage a primary producer to improve his land by skilful management, the application of fertilizers, and hard work. They provide him with an incentive to increase the productivity of his land. The honorable member now suggests that we should tax the increased value of the land worked bv such a primary producer. Such a form of taxation would stifle the spirit of independence and enterprise of the Australian people. Primary producers aro encouraged to work hard and to forgo the pleasures that are available to their city brethren because they are permitted, under our income tax laws, to put their profits back into their land. They are not subjected to an undistributed profits tax. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not seem to realize that income tax and severe death duties achieve the purpose that apparently he would seek to achieve by imposing a capital increment tax. A man who re-investshis profits in the land from which he has derived them must eventually pay tax on the improved value of that land either in tax upon his income, in duty upon gifts that he may make to members of hit family, who, incidentally, live with him under difficult conditions, and far removed from the amenities of city life, or in duties levied upon his estate after his death by the national government and the government of theState in which he lives. These facts dispose of the arguments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
The Land Tax Abolition Bill is a good measure. It is a machinery bill which will enable the work of our land tax officers to continue for a brief period so that they may clean up the spill-over of work that will remain after the abolition of federal land tax. The bill provides that the officers now employed in connexion with the administration of land taxation shall continue with their work. There are still some old files to be cleared up, and investigations and surveying to be undertaken. Provision will have to be made for the officers who compose valuation boards. This is merely a machinery measure.
The land tax was most unjust and unfair in its incidence. It was intended to break up large estates, but it did not do that. It was probably based on false premises because at the time it was introduced we thought that closer settlement was the most important activity in Australia. I believe that the closer settlement of land is only important when it affects our social framework. It is better to have a large number of small ownerfarmers than a large number of peasants working for big farmers. The incidence of land tax has a bearing on food production. In the United States of America about 10 per cent. of the farmers are responsible for about 90 per cent. of the production of food in that country. Therefore, if we are eager to increase our food production, we should not discourage the men who are doing a big and efficient job. The big cannery atCowra owned by Gordon Edgell and Sons Limited is doing a splendid job. An enormous amount of food is being produced from rich soil in the Cowra district. That company has on hand about £500,000 worth of canned food ready for consumption.. But for high costs, it could be sold anywhere in the world. It may have been all. very well for the Fisher Government in 1910 to talk about breaking up large estates. The position is entirely different to-day. The only benefit that we can obtain from closer settlement is the social framework that we all desire. It does not necessarily result in increased production. I point out that, other than on the irrigation areas, the holders of large areas must enjoy good seasons in order to survive. When honorable members opposite formed the government of this country they did not try to break up large estates, such as the Victoria River Downs station in the Northern Territory, which comprises about 13,000 square miles, because it was considered’ to be impossible for a land-holder to survive on small areas in the territory. I stress that closer settlement is only practicable in irrigation areas and areas that enjoy a regular rainfall.
I have said that the land tax was a most unjust and unfair tax. Eventually it became merely a revenue-raising tax. Let us consider the cost to the Government of raising revenue by taxation. In 1951-52, when the land tax yielded about £6,000,000, the cost of its administration was 3.99 per cent. In that year the cost of administration of income tax was only about . 88 per cent. of the proceeds. In other words, it cost the Government nearly five times as much to collect land tax as it did to collect income tax. As much as we hate and loathe income tax, it is a much fairer tax than land tax. I have figures before me which show that the salaries of the 320 to 340 officers engaged in connexion with land tax has involved an annual expenditure of about £250,000. If those figures are correct, it means that the administrative cost of raising revenue by land taxation was nearer 5 per cent, than 3.94 per cent. in. 1951-52. That ‘ cost compares with a cost of .88 per cent, for raising income tax, .45 per cent, for administering the pay-roll tax, and .36 per cent, for administering the sales tax. That figure may not be a fair one because sales tax imposes a heavy burden on the people who have to make the returns. It therefore must cost the country more than 36 per cent, to administer this tax since these firms have to maintain huge staffs for the purpose. The figures that I have cited refer only to the cost of governmental administration .
Everybody who casts a responsible eye on public expenditure would like to know how soon we will be able to save the cost of administering the unjust and expensive land tax. I have been informed that in August of last year 340 persons were engaged on land tax administration. By October the number had decreased to 320. We hope that by the end of this financial year only a very small skeleton staff will remain to look after the spillover of papers and valuations not yet completed. The incidence of land tax is most unfair, because it is not a tax on profits. Even if a land-owner has incurred heavy losses, he still has to pay land tax. If it is proper to tax companies on profits, which I think is one of the fairest ways for a government to obtain revenue, it is wrong to impose land tax on a land-owner who is incurring losses as a result of droughts or floods.
It has been suggested that land tax is not a tax upon rural land. Some years ago I was told that only about one-third of the proceeds of land taxation was derived from rural land-holders and that the remaining two-thirds was paid by the owners of city properties. In some States where rent control is exercised it has been the practice not to take land . tax into account for the purpose of computing rentals. In some instances heavy losses have been incurred as a result, and the dreadful blackmarketing practice of extracting key money has developed, because the- people who own the properties have to obtain an income to enable them to live. This bad tax should have been abolished years ago.
The Taxation Administration Bill provides for the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation, various other officers, and valuation boards. Some honorable members may be interested toknow what will become of persons at present engaged on land tax administration. I believe that they will be absorbed into the great income tax offices, where a staff wastage is occurring all the time. Men are growing old and retiring. The officers who have been engaged on land tax administration are trained and experienced men. They will be needed to replace that wastage. Gradually they will make their way, because in an expanding country the income tax offices’ must grow larger. As these men finish their work on land taxation, thus saving an annual expenditure of about £250,000 on salaries, they will move over into the income tax and other taxation offices. It is quite obvious nobody likes to pay land tax. Every body was delighted to see. it go. It was a bad tax. Quite rightly, it has been abolished. I was surprised at some of the arguments that were used by the more intelligent honorable members of the Opposition. I do not think that they have given the matter proper thought. They have just attacked this hill because the Government introduced it. When they think over things they will realize that this is a tax which should be abolished.
– I was interested in the contribution to this debate of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). He said that the land tax had failed in its purpose and that it had not broken up big estates. From 1910 to 1913 more land went under the plough in Australia than during the previous 30 years. During that period nearly 10,000 new farms were opened up. It might have been a coincidence, but that result followed closely on the application of the land tax. The Government is rightly concerned about the production of food and about the expansion of rural industry. I have heard Government supporters say that if by I960’ Australia had not increased its production of food it will not be able to feed its own population, much less export primary products which will enable us to purchase those products? which are essential to the development of our economy. I agree that food production should be increased. But it is not sufficient for a government to make pronouncements upon what should be done. It should do something. It should endeavour to increase food production. It should map out the path that should be followed in order that by 1960 our population may be able not merely to feed itself but also to make its contribution to the feeding of a hungry world. The Government has not done that. It has not announced any specific plan whereby people can be settled on the land. It has not contributed to the solution of the problem of establishing ex-soldiers in rural industries. A total of 28,000 returned soldiers from World War II. who have applied for farms have not yet been settled on the land.
– Where are those figures from?
– They are accurate. Only a small proportion of the ex-soldiers who have applied for land have secured it. It was estimated by the rural commission which was established by the Curtin Government to examine the need for establishing farms for soldiers after World War II. that 80,000 men had gone to the war from primary industries and that 50,000 would probably desire to settle on the land. Not 50,000 have applied for land, but of those who have applied only a small fraction ‘have been settled. It was recently announced by the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria that it could not settle another ex-soldier on. the land during this financial year because it had no funds. A vast number of ex-soldiers are seeking land and cannot obtain it. Many other people also desire land. What has the Government done? Has it suggested that land which is not being utilized should be resumed at valuations which will enable people to make a reasonable living from it.
The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) interjected when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was speaking and said that land tax should not be used as a weapon in order to secure land for settlement, but that land should be resumed for that purpose. During the last session the same honorable gentleman violently attacked the Government of New South Wales for seeking to resume land in the south of New South Wales at prices which would have enabled people to settle successfully on the land. Honorable members opposite cannot have it all ways. If they want to enable people to settle on the land they must have a definite proposition. I say that people can be settled by the resumption of land but only if it is resumed at a reasonable valuation and not at a price which has been determined by the present inflated price of primary products. Honorable members opposite want land to be resumed at prices determined by the existing prices of primary products which are from twelve to sixteen times the prices which were obtainable in 1938-39. If people are settled on the land under those conditions they will have to meet obligations which will result in their being doomed to failure as the soldiers of the 1914-18 war were doomed to failure when they were established under somewhat similar conditions. Their land was resumed at a price that was determined by the price of products which was not maintained for any great length of time. It has been maintained that the land tax is an inequitable and unjust tax. We on this side of the House maintain that it is a most just form of taxation. It is not taxation in the ordinary sense. It takes from the land-owner a portion of the community-created value of his land. It uses the weapon of taxation against the land speculator, the land monopolist and the land aggregator to the advantage of the legitimate primary producer.
The honorable member - for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said that irrigation was the best method of settlement of large numbers of people on the land. I agree with him. At present that is the best method of settlement. But the reason that irrigation has not provided for more people has been that the land-owners have received a gift from the community. T refer to the increased value of their land, which has resulted from the establishment of head-works, the construction of channels and the reticulation of water. Land that was worth perhaps £5 an acre becomes worth £50 or £60 an acre when it has been irrigated, and the owners are able to sell it or lease it at that value. A farmer who has bought the land and has helped to pay for the irrigation scheme in the price that he had to pay for his farm has to keep on helping to pay for the irrigation works by having to pay water rates. We say that a proportion of the money that a land-owner who sells land in such circumstances takes out of primary industry should be. given to the community at least in the form of taxation. That is legitimate.. It is honest. There is nothing of the highwayman’s technique in that. Of course, as has been pointed out, the system of land taxation has been whittled away from year to year. The tax has been so reduced that its effectiveness has been destroyed. Previous anti-Labour governments reduced it by 3 0 per cent, on two occasions.
The manner in which land taxation has been approached by the Government is an example of the manner in which it deals with most of the problems that confront it. After the original imposition of land taxation in 1910 leaders of the antiLabour parties stated that if they were returned to office they would repeal the legislation. When they were returned to office, however, they were afraid to abolish the tax outright, and adopted instead the device of whittling it away a bit at a time. Now the present leaders of those parties consider that the opportunity has arrived for them to abolish it altogether. Out of about 400,000 primary producers in this country only 21,000 pay land tax. About 10 per cent, of that .21,000, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) pointed out, pay the major proportion of the tax. Honorable gentlemen opposite claim that they wish to help the legitimate primary producer, and they declare that the continuation of the land tax is an awful thing. Yet only a relatively few of more than 400,000 primary producers pay any land tax, and the bulk of the tax is paid by 10 per cent, of that few. An examination of the land tax system shows why so many primary producers pay no land tax. The reason is that the exemption level is £8,750.
– Unimproved value.
– Yes, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) points out, that is unimproved value only. The improved value of a farm that had such an unimproved value would be at least twice that amount. There are large farms in this country worth £20,000 or £30,000 in respect of which no land tax is paid. It is strange that honorable members opposite, who pretend that their objective is closer settlement, seek to prevent the imposition of land taxation on people who have farms valued at £30,000 or more, a vast number of which are not utilized to their full productive capacity.
– What rot !
– If every farm in this country were being utilized to its full productive capacity, why is primary production not greater than it is to-day? Po honorable members opposite mean to tell me-
– Why has the New South Wales Government proclaimed 3,000,000 acres of land and tied up production in that area?
– I do not know to what the right honorable gentleman refers, but I know that in New South Wales, north of Yarrawonga, there flows an artificial channel which is as wide as the River Murray. It was constructed in 1938, and along it there are vast areas of land on which could be built happy homesteads and which could be irrigated and made to contribute to our production of foodstuffs and other commodities. That land is lying idle because the land-owners, animated by the sentiments that animated the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) have fought the New South Wales Government to avoid resumption of their land for the purpose of closer settlement. They do not want their land to be resumed at the dry value. They want it to be resumed by the State Government at six to ten times the value at which they would have been willing to sell it to the Government prior to the construction of that channel. That is what is happening in New South Wales.
– What a lot of nonsense !
– I remind the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr.
Eric J. Harrison) that that is happening not only in New South Wales, but also in other States. After-all the proof of capacity is success in the achievement of something. This Government has talked for years about closer settlement. It has proclaimed that this should be done, and that should be done if this country is to fulfil the glorious destiny that the future holds for it. But it does nothing about it except talk. If its talk were a prelude to action I should sit here and listen to it in awe. Instead, I have been forced to the conclusion that the Government is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Its members and supporters make noises, but the noises mean nothing. That is particularly true of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, which is why he is due for political extinction in the near future. However, I want to stress the fact that the Labour party considers that there are certain values in this community, created by the community, to which the primary producers and other people are entitled. If a primary producer top-dresses his land, builds fences round it, subdivides it, and puts farmhouses on it, then he is entitled to the results of the energy, ingenuity and capacity that he showed in developing the area. If however, on the contrary, the community, by paying for an irrigation scheme, a railway or a roadway, or other public services, increases the value of that land, then the community is entitled to the full value created by it. I believe in that principle, but no government has gone so far as to demand the full community-created value. The farthest any government has gone has been to impose a graduated land tax that skims off a small percentage of that value. Honorable members opposite claim that such a procedure is revolutionary and utterly contrary to ethics.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that there are people other than members of the Labour party who believe in land taxes. Of course there are! The followers of Henry George believe in it. Down through the years nobody has been able to refute the logic of Henry George’s beliefs in respect, of the taxation of land;. He went from country to country visiting, among. others.
America, Ireland and even Australia, and all kinds of people listened to him and were convinced of the logic of his arguments.
– Including supporters of the anti-Labour parties.
– There are people within the ranks of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party who pretend to be Henry George-ites and to believe in the principle of taxation of unearned increment represented in communitycreated values. They give lip service to that principle, but when the issue is raised they are more desirous to present to a few of their friends a gift of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 by way of tax remission, than they are to prove themselves true to their intellectual convictions in connexion with the subject of taxation.
– I thought that Henry George’s theory had been forgotten twenty or thirty years ago.
– I hazard the guess that this is the first time the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) has heard of the theory. Judging from the attitude usually adopted by the honorable gentleman, I should not say that he is either the wisest or the most well-informed Minister in the House.
As a member of the Australian Labour party, I enter an emphatic protest against this sectional reduction of taxation-
– Protest noted !
– My protest may not be in vain. Other people in other ages made protests which have since been justified, and I have not the slightest doubt that mine will also be justified fully by time. Next May, and again, not very long afterwards, the people of this country will uphold protests such as mine and will dispense with the services of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and his colleagues for all time. It is obvious that I am getting under the skin of honorable gentlemen opposite. After all, it is natural for them to feel ashamed of this legislation. If I were in their place and had been guilty of a sell-out I too should endeavour ‘to divert attention from the issue at stake. If there is justification for -the remission of some form of taxation and bounties available for distribution, it is the duty of the Government to see that an order of priority operates in the giving of such bounties and that the first gift is to the most needy. The Government .has said, in effect,, “We shall give approximately £’7,000,000 to Myer’s Emporium, the big newspaper concerns, banking institutions, and the -vast squattocracies throughout file country, but we shall give nothing to the -age pensioners, war -widows, and persons in receipt of repatriation pensions’”.
– 3.ow many .’farmers does the honorable member -suggest could be settled .on Myer’s block ?
– With the revenue of approximately £20,000 or £30,000 received ^annually from taxes -imposed on Myer!s block, I could place -a number of exservice settlers on farms in -country areas. In that way, Myer’s unearned increment could :be utilized for the benefit of the community. In the same way, insurance companies, :banks, :and newspapers, which are being made a present by the ‘Govern”ment, could also contribute to the welfare of the country. Incidentally, I presume that the newspapers are being made a gift by the ^Government in the hope of favours to come. Perhaps it hopes that the newspapers may be able to saTe it from iti impending fate. I assure honorable members opposite that any protection which the newspapers of the country may give them will be of little use in the long run.
No honorable mem;ber has yet proved during this debate that land tax is inequitable. The claims advanced by honorable members opposite to the effect that the tax was ineffective have also been proved wrong. In ray opinion the Government would do well, even at this late stage, to withdraw the Land Tax Abolition Bill.
– I have seldom listened to a debate during which so many wild statements have been made and so much ‘political bias revealed, despite the fact that the Land Tax Abolition Bill is a very sound piece of legislation. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. -Peters) unfortunately followed the eloquent ‘lead given by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and re-hashed all the old stories about biased legislation, and gifts to the moneyed class and none to the widows -and orphans. In my opinion, those comments did not raise the tone of the debate, nor did they throw very much light upon the issues which are involved in the present legislation. The Land Tax Abolition Bill is designed, primarily, to tidy up the closing down -of the land tax administration. The Taxation Administration Bill is designed to provide for a continuance of the machinery -of taxation in other fields, and for purposes incidental thereto.
The honorable member for Burke made one or two statements to -which I shall refer immediately, because they were so much at variance with the facts that I cannot believe that he made them in good faith. -Rather did he speak in ignorance. I refer first ‘to the land along the Murray River to “which he referred. During the speech of the honorable member, the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mi’. Eric ~5. Harrison) interjected to the effect that 3,000,000 acres of land described by the honorable member for Burke as being served by a great flowing channel which diverts the water of the Murray through the dry and thirsty south-west and is now wasted ; is all tied .up by- proclamation. I must confess to being one of the villians of the piece in that connexion, because I was a member of the government which, during the great depression of the 1930’s, devoted .a considerable amount of money, which it had at its- disposal, to the improvement of those lands. We brought under the control of the irrigable flow of the Murray 1,750,000 acres of land. With a view to preventing people from obtaining an unfair increment, we placed a proclamation over areas which were to benefit by that work. We were confronted by the fact that it was humanly impossible for the man whose land was affected beneficially by that work to carry out immediate improvement of his land. We provided that intensive -cultivation and occupation water rates would be payable on 10 per cent, of the land and stock awd domestic rates on the remainder.
The administration of the law subsequently passed from our control. If that land is not used to its full capacity, let me remind the honorable member that for twelve years a Labour administration has been in office in New South Wales, and it appears that it is to remain in office for a further three years. The honorable gentleman might impress all his friends that the legislation we passed to protect the revenues and future purchasers of land should be extended to place settlers on land. He should remember that we did the equitable and just thing. We provided that the land value should be fixed at the value which obtained before we had put the water on it, plus the variation caused by the additional value, or otherwise, of money. That was a perfectly sound proposal.
I shall now refer to the suggestion that was rather humorously made that the remission of the land tax is a species of class legislation. Surely if the remission of the land tax is class legislation, the singling out of a relatively small class of this community to pay a continuing tax was most certainly class legislation. If the imposition of land tax was not class legislation then the remission of the land tax is also not class legislation. I say to honorable members opposite, when they bring forward arguments of the kind that we have heard to-day, that they have made no valuable contributions to the real issues in this debate. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred, earlier in his speech, to the tremendous benefits which had been conferred by the land tax in the breaking up of large estates. I “recall the speeches made during the debate on a similar bill last year and those to date on this bill, and the only honorable member who made any reference to the possible beneficial effect of the land tax in the breaking up of large estates, was the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) who suggested that on the outbreak of World War I. there was an economic march forward which seemed to coincide with the passing of the land tax legislation a year or so previously. That is the only argument that I can remember in any previous debate, or during this one on the remission of the land tax, that was advancel as a reasonable reason why the tax should be retained. As against that I have produced information that was provided by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in respect of one of the richest districts of New South Wales where large estates have been broken up in order to put ex-servicemen on the land since the war, but where there are now less people than there were before the estates were sub-divided.
The Parliament must be presented with more than airy suggestions to be persuaded that a land tax will give an impetus to land settlement. Honorable members opposite might say quite reasonably, “Yes, but the taxation that has been imposed has never been high enough to bring about the bursting up of big estates “. If that argument be put forward, and honorable members opposite have seemed to be very shy about mentioning it, I would remind them that several Labour governments in New South Wales proceeded upon that assumption, and nearly forced a bill through the New South Wales Parliament to impose a tax of 5s. in the £1 on the value of various big estates. It was left to myself and the members of the then State Opposition to point out to the State Labour Government that if they brought down penal legislation of that kind they would not “ burst up “, as they averred, the large estates, but they would completely destroy the farmers’ equities in anything up to 70 or 80 per cent, or more of the small holdings. We pointed out that if the State Government forced large quantities of land on to the market by penal taxation, the first man to be hurt would be the man who had put in 5 per cent., 10 per cent., 15 per cent., 20 per cent, or even 30 per cent, as a deposit on his farm. His equity would disappear overnight because land values would fall. If it is the intention of the Opposition to bring about a socialistic change to destroy, the equities of the people on the land, particularly the small holders, then the way to do it is the way in which several Labour governments in New South Wales attempted to do it in past years. That is the implication behind their argument that the land tax should be retained, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it.
I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne, though I may be wrong in this, said ‘”’ We shall restore the “land tax when we get back to power, and we shall . increase it.” It is pertinent to ask by how much he would increase it ? Let every man on the land understand the full implications of penal land taxation. I say again that if, by land taxes, any government forces large quantities of land on to the land market it will immediately damage the equities of all those who hold land. The burden will fall most heavily on the weakest who are the sin all men on the land. The quicker that that is thoroughly understood by all the people who are using our land the better it will be for the community in :general.
Now I desire to deal with the Opposition’s basic assumptions which have been revealed in this debate, mainly through the arguments that have been advanced by the honorable member for Melbourne. One of his principal, arguments was that the only factor that is involved in the value of land is the community. That is, those people who have come to live on the land owe everything to the community. I say that that is not only a fallacy, but that it is grossly and desperately unfair to the pioneers of this country, many of whom endeavoured and are still endeavouring to develop their land without a fraction of real assistance from any Government. Let me bring to the attention of honorable members the epic of the McKay family, who less than 100 years ago initiated a great overland movement from New South Wales to the Kimberleys and the north-west of Australia. What did they get from any government? Nothing. They were men of tremendous drive, energy, capacity and enterprise, and it is -to men of such type that Australia is indebted for the establishment of the cattle industry in north-west Australia. Those people who glance around airily and see the countryside cleared of the timber, rocks and other natural obstacles, who see it well dammed and. well grassed, talk glibly about what the community has done. I. have seen men and women struggling under the very worst conditions - out in the depths of the country where there were no roads, no towns and no amenities.
I had the honour to lead a crusade in the north of New South Wales for a period, and I saw these people ; and they are the ones who have to listen to the kind of diatribe that is glibly put forward by honorable members opposite who rise with counsel wanting wisdom and tell us that the community puts value into the land that these people have hewn out by their own resources. It was the courage and enterprise of the pioneers of this country which made our land productive, and the community to-day is living on the fat created by men of enterprise and self-sacrifice who took their courage in both hands, sought no social services and only asked for a fair deal.
The honorable member for Melbourne claimed that the land tax was a better impost than the sales tax. If the honorable member will ponder upon this matter, he must understand that (die effect of the sales tax and the land tax is the same in all branches of commerce. It helps to increase the cost of goods. But the land tax cannot always be passed on by the man who produces from the land. Primary producers generally take what the market yields, but in an ordinary business, sales tax can be transferred to the goods and thus recovered. The difference should bc recognized by the honorable member for Melbourne and others who speak about the sales tax and land tax in the same breath. For the mercantile community, the incidence of the two taxes may be the same, but that does not apply to the men on the land. In the case of butter thu land tax may be incorporated in the. return to producers because the price is controlled and subsidized but in the case of many products of the land the tax cannot bc passed on once a certain point is reached. The honorable member for Melbourne said that this legislation would be of benefit principally to big taxpayers. I am sorry that it has been found necessary for the honorable member-
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I now propose to address myself to the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne that all governments but the present Government have thought it good policy to impose a land tax. That statement raises the question not only of the merits or demerits of the land tax, a matter with which I have already dealt, but also whether it is wise for a government to repeal any tax. Obviously, a government would not repeal a tax at a time when it is urgently in need of finance from the taxation source. A government would repeal a tax - and this Government has admitted that there are certain taxes other than the land tax which it will repeal when the opportunity arises - only when it has sufficient finance to enable such a step to be taken. Some taxes are so inherently unsound and vicious in their application that their repeal is necessary fit the earliest possible moment. The land tax comes within that category. In times of income shortage the tax becomes a capital levy which the taxpayer finds it most difficult to meet. In times of prosperity there are other and better forms of taxation than the land tax from the point of view of the Government. That is probably the soundest justification for the repeal of this tax.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) took up the theme that the repeal of the tax is designed simply to assist big businessmen and monopolists. That theme was enlarged upon by them in their efforts to prove that only big businessmen and monopolists would benefit from the repeal of the tax. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports attempted to prove that certain large banks and business institutions would greatly benefit from its abolition. He omitted to mention that landowners who have been heavily hit by droughts and adverse seasonal conditions, have had to pay the tax despite the fact that their year’s operations resulted in a loss. Many of them have had to obtain bank accommodation because they could not pay the tax out of income. During the depression a great many mercantile concerns had to adopt a similar procedure. The validity of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite against this bill are not strengthened by statements, such as those made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that it will confer benefits of £275,000 on a certain group of banks, £90,000 on overseas banks and varying large amounts on certain large enterprises. Apparently honorable members opposite airily regard the remission of the land tax- as conferring unjustified .benefits on large businesses and concerns. I remind them that, the rate of land tax imposed on these concerns was relatively nominal compared with the rate of income tax levied upon them. Speaking from memory, the maximum rate of land tax was approximately lOd. in the £1, the rate commencing at Id. in the £1 on land of an unimproved capital value of £5,000. The statutory exemption was subsequently raised to £8,750. I remind honorable members opposite that the large concerns about, which they have spoken were paying 10s. in the £1 in income tax in the year in which the land tax was repealed. The money saved by these concerns as the result of the abolition of the land tax merely swell their profits, which are subject to income tax sit a rate very much higher than that applied to the land which they own. Later, the profits of the concern are taxed in the hands of the shareholders in accordance with a formula that has been laid down.
The belief that the repeal of a tax which is vicious in its incidence will make it possible for some person or concern to escape taxation is so much sheer rot. It has no application to the facts of the matter. As every thinking person knows, a man who furnishes an honest tax return cannot escape the full measure of tax imposed upon him merely as the result of the repeal of one form of taxation. The money he saves by the repeal of one form of tax simply swells his profits upon which he pays income tax at a very high rate.
It is unnecessary for me to enlarge on that aspect of the matter further than to say that the story that in this legislation the Government is merely looking after its wealthy supporters and the fat businessman is merely cheap rubbish which lias no validity in fact. Under this legislation companies and individuals who encounter an economic blizzard or whose businesses have declined to such a degree that they cannot make a profit will receive a benefit to which they are entitled. Capital levies are imposed only by countries that are in extremis. If this country needs a capital levy by all means let the Government impose it; but let it not take money from concerns in a depression or in prosperous times irrespective of whether or not they make a profit.
There is urgent need for decentralization of taxation administration in Australia. In the City of London a taxpayer does not have to go to head-quarters to secure advice or to settle points at issue with the taxation authorities.’ There are 165 different offices which the taxpayer can attend in order to interview taxation officials and settle his disputes with the taxation authorities. Probably more than 95 per cent, of the differences between the taxpayers and the authorities are settled outside the head office. Only matters of policy and disputes between the various taxing authorities are dealt with at the head office. All points of law are dealt with in the law courts. In the whole of the rest of Great Britain there are 500 tax offices, and a taxation centre for approximately every 80,000 inhabitants where taxpayers can obtain advice and iron out their difficulties with the taxation authorities. English taxpayers know nothing of the difficulties associated with long-range action such as we have in Australia.
I pay a tribute to the efforts of the Commissioner of Taxation and his deputies in endeavouring to overcome the difficulties resulting from the intense centralization of taxation administration. I hope that as a result of action now being taken it will be found possible to appoint, in areas on the north coast, on the tablelands, in the central-western and southern parts of New South “Wales, deputy commissioners who will be authorized to deal with taxation matters on the spot. If that were done New South Wales taxpayers would be saved, in the aggregate, millions of pounds in wasted time and money. The deputy commissioners should have authority to deal out of hand with all but policy matters which should be the responsibility of the Commissioner. I support the bill.
– The two measures before the Chair, the Taxation Administration Bill and the Land Tax Abolition Bill, have been introduced with the object of ironing out certain administrative details following the abolition of land tax which was effected under a measure that was passed by the Parliament last year. The honorable member for New England (Mr.’ Drummond) said that land tax was unsound and vicious in its application. The honorable member did not advert to the fact that this legislation did away with Commonwealth land tax only and that a tax upon land is still being levied by State governments and that a form of land tax is the main source of revenue of local government authorities. It may well be that in introducing this measure the Government has been actuated by a desire to leave the field of land tax to the States because land tax is a difficult and expensive form of tax to collect. It involves increases of valuations, and appeals against valuations. The cost of collecting land tax is much greater than that of collecting other forms of tax. Consequently, the Government is not so generous as its supporters have suggested but is seeking to vacate this field of taxation merely for the reason that I have indicated. The honorable member for New England, before he was elected to this Parliament in 1949, was a distinguished member of the Legislature of New South Wales. I wonder whether during his period in that Parliament he raised his voice in protest against the imposition of land tax, which he has just described as an unsound and vicious form of tax. I repeat that the States will continue to levy land tax and that local government bodies will continue to levy rates which are a. form of land tax.
In the course of this debate much has been said about the purposes for which land tax was originally introduced by the Fisher Government in 1910. There is little doubt that the men who first placed this legislation on the statute-book had in mind two purposes. First, they were interested in raising revenues for the infant Commonwealth. In those days, the revenue needs of the Commonwealth Government were much less than they are to-day, and methods of extracting taxes from the people had not then been developed to anything like the degree that has been reached to-day. The modest amount that was raised by the collection of land tax in those days was an appreciable contribution to the revenue of the Commonwealth Government at that time. That was one of the reasons why the Fisher Government introduced this tax. The second reason was that that Government desired to break up large estates. It desired to force off the land squatters who were not using the land that they occupied to its full capacity. In that way it was hoped to make more land available for closer settlement and thereby to increase primary production. Government supporters have made much of the fact that the land tax legislation that was passed in the time of the Fisher Government was not fully successful in achieving either of those two objectives and, consequently, they now contend that a case can be made for the abolition of land tax. I agree that land tax has not succeeded fully in achieving those two objectives; but I do not agree by any means with the Government supporters when they say that that fact justifies the abolition of land tax. There is no doubt that big estates in this country have not been broken up. At the same time, a grave need exists to intensify closer settlement generally. We need to settle on the land not only ex-service personnel but also civilians and immigrants who desire to go on the land.
Unfortunately, the relevant figures show that we have not been making any progress towards closer settlement but that, on the contrary, the tendency towards aggregation has been going on not only in respect of country lands but also in the building up of trusts and combines in the cities. The figures have been cited in this House on previous occasions, but they are of sufficient importance to be repeated. They indicate that from 1939 to 1951 the number of operational farms in Australia steadily declined from 253,536 to 243,626. There were 10,000 fewer farms in operation in Australia in 1951 than there were in operation before the war. Apparently, successful farmers tend to buy up adjacent properties. Thus, the process of aggregation of properties is continuing. A similar trend is apparent in the cities. That trend is bad, and it must be reversed. We must settle more farmers on the land.
Annual collections of land tax before that tax was abolished last year. amounted to £7;000,000, which is, perhaps, an insignificant sum in proportion to the mammoth budgets, approaching £1,000,000,000 annually, which have been presented to this House in recent years. Furthermore, as the honorable member for New England pointed out, it is estimated that the abolition of land tax, with the consequent omission of the payment of such tax as an allowable deduction for income tax purposes, will result in an increase of income tax collections by £2,000,000 a year. Thus, the loss to revenue as a result of the abolition of land tax is estimated to be about £5,000,000 annually. The case that the Opposition makes against the Government in respect of this measure is not that land tax has failed to achieve the purposes for which it was originally introduced but that the Government is returning to a section of the taxpayers a sum of approximately £5,000,000. The questions that the people of Australia will require to be answered are -whether the Government has returned that sum to the section of the community which has the greatest claim for relief and whether it has made available that relief in a manner that will be of most benefit to the mass of the people. In these days of high living costs and inflation, a government which found itself in a position to hand back a sum of £5,000,000 to the community could make that relief available in two ways. It could increase some classes of social services benefits. For instance, it could utilize that sum to make an additional payment to age pensioners who are entirely dependent upon their pensions or to increase widows’ pensions or other social services benefits. On the other hand, it could reduce to that degree the rates of certain taxes in a manner that would be of most benefit to the great majority of the people. For instance, it could utilize this sum in reducing rates of sales tax which is a highly inflationary tax because it increases the cost of every article on which it is levied. If the Government desired to reduce the rates of certain forms of taxes in order to reduce the cost of living and as an antiinflationary measure, it could distribute this sum of £5,000,000 in the form of a reduction of the sales tax. Similarly, it could have made these remissions in the form of reductions of excise or customs duties. Some customs duties, of course, are imposed to protect Australian industries, and others to raise revenue. The Government could have distributed benefits in the form of a reduction of either of those kinds of impost, and the result would have been an immediate decrease of the cost of living. Reductions of that kind would have been reflected in the prices of articles subject to those taxes-
– Does not the honorable member realize that taxation definitely affects costs of production?
– That is the whole tenor of my argument. Had the Government reduced sales tax, excise or customs duties, the price of articles subject to those forms of taxation would have been reduced. The pay-roll tax is an inequitable form of taxation, which is not based upon ability to pay. For example, each of two neighbouring operators could be subject to the same amount of pay-roll tax, although one of them could be making a big profit and the other a substantial loss. However, the Government chooses to ignore all those methods of granting benefits to the people in the form of reduced taxation, and has decided to relieve one section of the community of the obligation to pay taxes amounting to £5,000,000 a year. The people who have been paying land tax are not, as some honorable members opposite have suggested, the “ battlers “ or the small struggling farmers. This impost is payable only on the unimproved capital value of land of a minimum value of £S,750. I suppose that it would be a fair estimate to say that if the unimproved value of a property is £8,750, the improved value would be in the vicinity of £20,000. Consequently, people who own property of an improved value of less than £20,000 have not been liable to pay land tax. All this talk about the “ battlers “ and the small farmers who will benefit from the abolition of the tax, is beside the point. Actually, an examination of the source . from which land tax is derived shows that the contention of the honorable member for Melbourne that the main beneficiaries from the remission of this tax are the big corporations which operate in the cities i:i soundly based.
Figures compiled by the Commissioner of Taxation disclose that when the land tax was originally introduced, most of the revenue derived from it was in respect of country lands, not city lands. That process has been reversed as time has passed, and the unimproved value of town lands as assessed for purposes of land tax was £158,000,000 when these figures were compiled in 1941, whereas the unimproved value of rural lands as assessed for land tax purposes was only £1118,000,000.. Obviously the greater proportion of revenue from-, land tax is derived from urban- lands; and not from rural, lands. The holders of big real estate in the urban areas are undoubtedly the big emporiums, chain stones- and financial and commercial institutions. Those corporations will derive most of the benefit from this bill. This remission will not decrease the cost of living by one penny, or bring about a decrease of the cost of any articles. The real result will be that the big copora-tions will pay less tax,, and their profits will be correspondingly greater.
The honorable member for New England attempted to rebut some of the submissions made earlier to-day in an eloquent and forceful speech by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). The honorable member for Burke put forward, and supported, some of the ideas of Henry George,, to the effect that some of the increase of the value of real estate is the result of general community effort and, therefore, that increase should bear a tax to compensate for what the community has put into it. The honorable member for New England, in rebutting that argument, made an eloquent plea on behalf of the pioneers of this country. He said that the value of the land had been built up by the pioneers rather than by any community effort, and that the remarks of the honorable member for Burke were a reflection upon our pioneers.
The statement by the honorable member for New England was perfectly true as far as- it went, but it was a half truth, because it told only half the story. Admittedly, the great pioneers did Magnificent work, . and we, as a people, who have inherited the country which they did so much to develop, have every reason to be extremely grateful to them. Those men and women who pushed out the frontiers of this land, took their families to remote districts, hacked out their homes in the bush and braved fire, flood and tempest, did a wonderful job for Australia. Nobody would detract from what they have done, and the manifestation of more of that spirit in Australia to-day would certainly not be out of place. But whilst we all pay tribute to the great work of the pioneers, I contend, that the case submitted by the hon- orable member, for Burke is. unanswerable: He submitted that many properties acquire a- lot of value as a result of community efforts. I should like to cite a classical- illustration which, proves beyond doubt the- point made by the honorable member for Burke-
Most people who live in the1 City of Melbourne know of the Howey estate, which is a very valuable piece- of - freehold property near the corner of Collins-street and Swanston-street. That property was acquired by one, Henry Howey, who lived’ in the days- when- Melbourne was- a struggling little village on the banks of the Yarra. Howey attended an auction sale, and perhaps like many people who attend auction sales, he was carried’ away with enthusiasm,- for he found himself saddled with two blocks of land, each of I acre, which he did not particularly want and for which he was to pay £140* When he had time to think over the matter, lie was so unimpressed’ with his bargainthat he tried to pay the’ deposit of £14, and surrender the land, so that he would not be burdened with it. However, the auctioneer held him to his bargain, so he paid the money and became the owner of those two blocks. It is a well-known fact that this land is now worth, millions of pounds. The buildings on it include the big Manchester Unity building,, and other buildings in Howey Court. The family who own that property and have drawntens of thousands’ of pounds of revenue from it over the years,, did not even bother to visit Australia. The man who bought the land originally was drowned at sea shortly after he had acquired it, and the property passed to his descendants. As the City of Melbourne grew, those two blocks of land, unwanted by their original purchaser, suddenly acquired a great value.
How did the land acquire this great value? It was not as the result of the efforts of the descendants of Howey, because they did not even visit Melbourne iri the days when the value of property was being increased. The land acquired its value purely as the result of the growth of the community around it, the growth of the great metropolis of Melbourne, the expenditure by the community on roads and footpaths, gas services and later electric light services, and the development of transport services to the country, so that the produce of the rural districts could be- brought to the city. In short, the land acquired its value as the result of the development of the City of Melbourne, to which the heirs of Howey contributed nothing. I agree with the honorable member for Burke that in such instances there is a case for the imposition of a tax on the unearned increment on the land so that owners of properties that have increased in value as the result of the development of the community will make some contribution towards the costs of the commuity.
Much emphasis has been placed in this discussion on the relationship between land tax and closer settlement. Everybody will agree that one of our most urgent needs is’ for more farmers so that food production may be increased. Our food problem has been accentuated, perhaps more than we realized until recent times, by our immigration programme. We need more foodstuffs, not merely to feed our own expanding population, but also so that our surpluses may be sent overseas to feed the people of the United Kingdom and our neighbours in the near north who require food so urgently and also to provide the overseas” credits that are necessary to sustain our economy. One result of our immigration programme is that we have many more mouths to feed, and that undoubtedly is an important factor contributing to our declining exportable surpluses of foodstuffs. It is a great misfortune that,, in our immigration programme, we did not secure more new settlers to go on the land to increase primary production.. Unfortunately, many thousands of our own young men, too, are being denied an opportunity to go on the land.. I have had two such young men in my office in the last fortnight. One is a Scottish immigrant who would bring his family to this country if he. could get a small block of land. The other was brought up on a farm and wants to go back on the land to rear his family. Neither has sufficient money to buy a farm. These,, and thousands of other young men want to go on the land and make their contribution towards the solution of the vital problem of producing more food. They are held back only by the non-availability of suitable land on favorable terms of purchase. We cannot have the extra food that we need unless more land is made available for settlement. We must unlock our lands, and to do so there are two directions in which we can look. First, there are our vast expanses of undeveloped land. In that connexion, a. great experiment is being conducted in South Australia by the Australian Mutual Provident Society. There, land which hitherto has been regarded as wasteland, is being opened up for primary production by scientific means, including the addition of trace elements to the soil. A means of livelihood will thus be provided for hundreds of new settlers. We have a lot of unutilized land, and that is the first direction in which we should look in our search for land for new settlers. Then, we must look to the occupied lands that are not being fully utilized at present and it is to this aspect of the problem that I wish particularly to direct my remarks.
I am one of those who believe in the private ownership of property. I have said so in this House before. Ownership of property is perhaps the real basis of security for the individual in this community. Critics of private ownership of property are not, I believe, making the proper approach to the problem. The attack should be directed not at the institution of private property but at the maldistribution of property in this and other countries. Our great need is for a diffusion of ownership of property. We must get away from great aggregations of private holdings in the country, and from the huge monopolies and trusts in the cities. Our aim should be a state of society in which as many people as possible own property and so have a vital basis of security. The ideal society is, I believe, one in which as many people as possible own something whether it be a home, a farm, or a share in the business in which they earn their livelihood, either through profit sharing or partnership schemes. Believing that the ownership of private property is one of the rights of mankind, I also wish to express the corollary of that right. The ownership of private property carries with it not only certain rights but also certain obligations, including social obligations. In a country such as
Australia which, has a vital need for increased food production, unquestionably one of the social obligations of the ownership of land is that all land should be utilized to its full productive capacity. If a property, small or large, is being used to its full capacity, the owner is carrying out his social obligations in that respect ; but if, instead, the land is merely being mined, and the owner is taking everything out of it without putting anything back to maintain its fertility and productivity, he is neglecting his social obligations, and in my opinion such land which is not being utilized to its full productive capacity should be compulsorily resumed by the State governments for soldier and civilian closer settlement.
The suggestion has been made that if land is not being utilized to its full productive capacity, and therefore the owner is not carrying out his social obligations in respect of that land, he should be compelled to do so by increasing the rates of land tax. That, I believe, is an entirely wrong approach to the problem. The abjective could be better achieved if the States were to use their constitutional power compulsorily to resume such land - at a just price - and make it available for closer settlement. I oppose this legislation to abolish the land tax, not because the original measure failed to achieve its purpose of breaking up large estates and raising revenue, but because the Government proposes now to hand back to one section of the community an amount of about £5,000,000. We on this side of the chamber consider that, if the Government wishes and is able to hand money back to the taxpayers, it should make taxation remissions in other directions which would be of more benefit to the great masses of the people.
.- The speech that has been made to-night by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) was the most refreshing I have heard for many a day from the Opposition side of the chamber. In fact, it was so refreshing that I believe an invitation should be extended by the Liberal .party to the honorable member for Fawkner to join its ranks. Except for the honorable member’s double talk in trying to justify the attitude of the Labour party, all his emphasis was placed on matters which are in direct line with this Government’s policy on the private ownership of land. It is amazing how much politicians can find to say when they speak for a second time on a matter that has already been decided. As we have been reminded by several honorable members, we are considering two bills simultaneously. They are merely formal measures because the decision to abolish land tax has already been made. The purpose of the bills, as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has explained, is to put right the positions of the Commissioner of Taxation, the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation, and other officials whose appointments were based on the original Land Tax Assessment Act.
The abolition of land tax has resulted in a considerable saving throughout Australia. In fact, it represents one of those silver linings that we occasionally see in a sky clouded with government boards, commissions and other instrumentalities that pester the people. I hope that the people will ensure that the abolition shall be permanent by retaining this Government in office. They should not forget that the Opposition has threatened to reimpose land tax, and the cost of its administration, if it gains power again. The Government’s action has reduced public expenditure by obliterating a branch of our taxation system which, as I shall explain, was duplicated in the States. Although the subject of land tax was fully debated last year, the Labour party has seized upon the opportunity to enter this public forum again for the purpose of fanning the flames of class war, which they are trying to perpetuate in Australia. All members of the Opposition who have taken part in this debate have harped on the theme of class hatred. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) turned the debate in that direction in the first place, and each successive speaker on the Opposition side of the House has followed his lead. They pretend that there is a great difference between the man who owns a large property and the man who has only a little property. They are striving to maintain a form of class distinction that is not based on facts. There is no need for such bitterness in Australia, as I shall explain.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that the people who had benefited from the abolition of land tax were the owners of big emporiums, banks and so forth. Surely everybody in Australia knows that most of the big emporiums, banks and other such commercial organizations are not owned by individuals. If honorable members opposite will examine the facts, they will find that tens of thousands of average Australians are, in fact, the owners of most of our big emporiums and banks. Only in a few instances do private individuals own large areas of land. People from the rank and file of our population are shareholders in most of our big establishments. Honorable members opposite seek to divide the people on such issues for their own purposes. Their policy is obvious. They are trying to instil in the minds of the people a belief that, in their interests, private ownership of land should be abolished. Almost every action of the Opposition in this House, and of the governments of the States in which the Labour party is in power, is directed towards the destruction of the right of private ownership of land. In these circumstances, it was refreshing to hear some of the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner.
The honorable. member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) spoke, as usual, with the air of a financial expert. His dissertation included the extraordinary statement that the repeal of the land tax, in effect, had given a capital increment to those upon whom it had been levied. The honorable member may be able to produce a few facile arguments in favour of that contention, but, if he faces the facts fairly and squarely, he must acknowledge that it is utter nonsense. As he admitted, very few people in Australia were affected by the land tax. Some of them, who owned large properties, paid considerably more tax than did the others. The honorable member apparently forgot, when he suggested that the abolition of the tax represented an increase of the value of their properties, that the value of land can be assessed properly only in terms of what it will produce. For instance, rural properties will produce certain goods, and urban properties can be used to provide certain accommodation which has a monetary value. The value of land can be related only to the uses to which it is put. Does the honorable member suggest that the property owner who was liable to land tax has benefited greatly as a result of its abolition? The fact is that the discontinuance of the tax represented a release from an injustice. Most property was not subject to land tax. Does the honorable member suggest that the value of such property was reduced, or that the value of taxable property was increased? The land tax represented a charge against revenue from property. If, as a result of the abolition of land tax, revenue from properties has become a little higher than it was previously, most of the increase will be taken by additional income tax. Thus, the abolition of the tax has been of slight benefit, at the best, to property owners. The truth is that land tax is a sectional tax and, therefore, is unjust and bad in principle. Any government that would perpetuate a sectional tax of such a character does not deserve to hold office. “We heard some extraordinary statements by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), who appeared to agree with the Henry George principle. We know that the Henry George principle has some merit in it and that many people in Australia believe in it. But the Henry George system and our system of taxation are not compatible. Apparently the honorable member has forgotten that the Henry George principle requires complete freedom of trade and the abolition of controls of all kinds. Coming from a Labour member that, too, was an extraordinary statement, because the Henry George principle is completely inconsistent with socialism.. Another statement of the honorable member for Fawkner was incorrect. There is no land tax levied in New South Wales as he stated. That is one State that has not imposed land taxation. One wonders sometimes where the inconsistency lies, because although the Labour Opposition in this House advocates the imposition of land tax, the Labour party in New South Wales says nothing about it. I hope that it will have the good sense never to do so.
The Howey estate in Melbourne has been mentioned. It comprised 2 acres of land which, in the distant past, was purchased for £140 and is now worth millions of pounds. One would imagine from the stories that have been told, that it was just bought for £140, and then one day, years afterwards, the buyer’ woke up and found that it was worth millions of pounds. It was not so easy as that. A lot of water ran under the bridge in the intervening years. It would be very interesting if one could compile statistics to show how many people in Melbourne, and, indeed,’ in Australia, have benefited greatly by the increment of value of that land. Obviously, tens of thousands of people have owed their livelihood all their lives to that sale of land. I understand that there are important commercial buildings on it. Who could assess the amount of taxes that has been paid for the use of that land during the intervening years? If a case is based so simply as the honorable member for Fawkner has done, the result appears to be terrible, but when it is analysed to its fullest extent it is not so terrible, because it is apparent that, in the process of development, the sale of land has benefited a great number of citizens of Australia.
This Government has never said at any time that it was opposed to the principle of the taxation of land. What it says is that it is violently opposed to the imposition of an unjust tax and to the duplication and triplication of taxation at the one source. It is also violently opposed to the imposition on a section of the community of a tax which is not levied on or payable by any other members of the community. Land tax is being abolished in the interests of justice. If some of the States impose a betterment tax, not a land tax, that is another matter altogether. It has no association with the principles involved in the abolition of the land tax. Yet that argument has been used consistently by honorable members opposite during this debate. The contentions of the honorable member for Fawkner were quite inconsistent with the attitude of State Labour governments. Only about a month ago, at the opening ceremony of a block of ‘flats that had been constructed by the Housing Commission of New South Wales, that extra- ordinary Labour nian, Mr. Olive Evatt, who is the New South Wales Minister for Housing, patted himself on the chest and said, in effect, “I am the greatest landlord in New South Wales, and here is another addition to my rent roll “. The emphasis of Labour policy is on the government ownership of land and the discouragement of land-ownership by the people. In every way that policy is directed to controls and frustrations to discourage people from investing in land. I warn honorable members opposite and the people of Australia that if the incentive to invest in land is destroyed the country will be almost completely socialized. That stage is fast being reached as a result of the attitude that is being applied by the Labour party throughout Australia.
It has been correctly stated that land tax was first imposed to break up big estates. The legislatures of the past had no such thoughts as are now voiced by the Opposition. They had no such intentions as honorable members opposite have voiced in relation to these matters. In the past governments did not, as a rule, resume land in the way that governments are resuming private property to-day, generally on a most unfair basis. In those days, governments hesitated to resume property. Indeed, they only resumed it as a last resort. It is admitted that land tax has failed to break up big estates. It was never thought at the time that this tax was introduced that it would apply so significantly and so unfairly to city properties throughout Australia. At that time the Australian cities were not the places that they are to-day. This tax also affects many of the suburban properties throughout the length and breadth of this country. It had reached the stage where it was an unfair penalty on business. I understand that land tax is imposed in every State except New South Wales.
As we all know, the rates paid on proparty are generally used by localgoverning bodies for their purposes. One would imagine from the remarks of honorable members opposite that private owners are not contributing by taxation on land towards the provision of any services, that they do not contribute their fair share towards the social life of this country. That is an indictment that is completely unfair, because no section of the community has contributed more to the welfare of the community than have the citizens who have been called upon to pay rates for the maintenance of localgovernments. They have contributed to our welfare considerably. Property owners have contributed all the money for the provision of water supplies and sewerage the constructions of roads, footpaths, and kerbing and guttering. They have also provided most of the money for the establishment of magnificent gardens and parks in the various cities. Their contributions have made possible the maintenance and development of playing fields for the use of the sporting fraternity of this country. The young people of this country have been entirely dependent upon them for money for the provision of sporting facilities. They have contributed to our social welfare in a magnificent way in the form of land tax. But there is no need to duplicate and triplicate a tax. There is no need to pick out a section of the community on which to impose this unfair tax which is bad in principle. The removal of this tax is justified on all counts; I have not heard one argument from the Opposition which could convince me or any fair-minded person that this tax should not be repealed. Its repeal will reduce the cost of government and remove an injustice. Our public life has reached a sorry stage if governments are prepared, deliberately and with intent, to impose unjust taxation upon a community. There are other instances of that than this, but mainly the property owners in Australia have been attacked. As the honorable member for Fawkner said, it is the inalienable right of ‘every individual to own property. The Government should encourage the exercise of that right in every possible way. If the Labour party persists in its attitude to this legislation it will discourage people from owning property.
When this tax was debated during the last sessional period mention was made of cases in Sydney and other capital cities in which, because of rent controls and the effect of the land tax, the owners of property were finding it impossible to retain their ownership. Under the rent control laws in New South Wales land tax is not deductible from the expenses of real estate for the purpose of arriving at a fair rent. That is extremely unfair. I advise the Labour party, in justice and fairness, not to threaten the people of Australia that if it returns to power it will re-impose this tax. Too many such threats have been made. Apparently the honorable member for Melbourne plays a leading part in making threats as to what the Labour party will do when it comes to office. I hope that the people will take notice of that fact. This elected Government of the people, displaying a spirit of justice, has abolished a tax which has outlived its usefulness and which is unjust to a section of the people. The Labour party has threatened to re-impose the tax and Opposition members have implied that it will impose it in a more vicious form. According to Opposition members they will drag every property owner down. Their whole object is to fan the bitterness among the people, to promote class distinction and to destroy the incentive to own property. It should not have been necessary to debate this bill at such length because the subject has been dealt with before but I could not refrain from replying to what honorable members opposite have said about it. Those who examine the matter will realize that these proposals are completely just and the people will endorse the actions of the Government. I support the measure.
.– I can quite understand the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) supporting this measure because he is one of the large real estate agents in Sydney. As a farmer, I intend to oppose the bill. 1 shall give my reasons. There are many other fields in which a reduction of taxation would accord a greater benefit to all sections of the community. Whom will the abolition of this tax benefit? Some honorable members opposite have said that its abolition would be of great benefit’ to the farmers. It will not be a relief to them. According to the latest figures on this subject, 3,552 farmers throughout Australia paid federal land tax. They paid a total of only £50,000 a year. About one farmer in 800 paid land tax. Of course, some section of the community will receive the benefit of the Government’s legislation. I suggest that the greatest benefit will be received by powerful commercial interests. The Government has had the opportunity to benefit the primary producer in better ways than by abolishing the land tax. As a farmer I suggest that the Government would have done better to keep the £7,000,000 a year which it derived from the land tax and devote it to land settlement. It could also apply that money to the betterment of roads throughout the country. As the Government must realize, the abolition of the land tax will be a relief to the great and powerful interests of finance and commerce but not to any one else in the community.
The land tax was originally imposed for the purpose of breaking up large estates, and I think that it had a measure of success. Resumption of estates in the Riverina occurred after the application of that tax. Men who had been share farming on good wheat growing estates of 20,000 or 30,000 acres, became the owners of their farms. The imposition of land tax has at least some effect in persuading owners of large estates to sell land, and for that reason the tax should be retained. Even in spite of land taxation there has been a tendency towards re-aggregation of huge properties in the hands of a comparatively small number of people. That tendency might have been prevented, or at least discouraged, by the retention of the tax. In my electorate an investment company is purchasing land in large parcels, although citizens and all the local government bodies in the area agree that that land should be available for purchase by war service land settlers and not by an investment company. Perhaps the money that is behind that investment company is provided by some of the big interests that the present measure will benefit.
It is sheer hypocrisy for honorable members opposite to claim that this bill will be of benefit to farmers generally. The bill is a mere continuation of the policy of tory governments to give relief, in the first place, to their own wealthy supporters. Probably that is only natural, but why does the Government try to camouflage its motives ? Why does it not admit the truth, because this measure will not fool anybody? The remission of tax resulting from, the measure will allow men who already have ample land to buy more. The price of land is on the increase because land values have been inflated as the result of the number of land speculators operating in the market, and the small farmer who wishes to buy land in the future will have to pay inflated prices for it. The remission of this tax should have been the last measure to be introduced by a government that claims to have the interest of the farmers at heart. The honorable member for Bennelong claimed that we were not sincere in our opposition to the measure. I am. certainly sincere in my opposition to it, as are my colleagues. It is our desire to put more men on the land and to increase the number of property owners. The records show that Labour governments introduced legislation that led to an increase in the number of small farmers. A Labour government imposed land tax in order to .produce that effect. The Government is abolishing the tax at a time when the people, especially farmers, are crippled with direct taxation, but this remission of tax will not be of any relief to the majority of farmers. The Government could have taken other steps with more effect if it wanted to help primary producers, and it is useless for its supporters to claim that the measure will be of benefit to primary producers generally. .Such a statement is completely misleading. I oppose the measure.
.- It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who professes to support increased production, express himself as being in favour of the retention of a tax on that which produces. Like the rest of his Labour party colleagues who represent country electorates, he is supporting blindly the socialization policy of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the continuance of a tax the retention of which will take away any enthusiasm that people might have for continuing to engage in primary production. I support the two bills which give effect to the Government’s decision to abolish the land tax. I approve the abolition of that tax because tax reduction is a part of the policy on which we were elected to office, and we intend progressively to reduce taxes in every possible field. The suggestions made by honorable members opposite regarding other tax fields that might be the subject of tax reductions are just so much nonsense. The Labour party opposes any reduction of taxes on land, and generally opposes all decreases of tax, and its supporters are not pleased, politically or in any other way, when they see this Government making an effort to reduce or abolish taxes.
I wish to .emphasize the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne that if, by any chance, the Labour party is returned to office, it will re-impose this tax. Of course, the honorable member for Wannon and other farmers on the Opposition side will be forced, because of their membership of the Labour party, to support re-imposition of land tax by a future Labour government. The abolition of land tax will not mean that the Government will lose all the revenue now represented by the i;ax, because much of it will come back to the Treasury in the form of income tax, the reason being that land tax is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. If its abolition swells the profits of those who now pay it, the extra profits will be taxed. The Treasury, therefore, will not lose all of the amount of £7,000,000 that it is estimated will be r emitted as a result of this measure.
Honorable members opposite have talked a great deal about land settlement, but we must recognize that that is not a function of the Commonwealth. It is a prerogative of the States, which are not succeeding to any great degree in relation to it. In Queensland, for instance, there are as many as from 2,000 to 6,000 land-hungry applicants in every ballot for a block of land, only one of whom is successful. I accept the figures given earlier in the debate that there is only 7.52 per cent, of alienated land in the Commonwealth, and that the balance is made up of Crown and leasehold land. That poses the question of what the State governments are doing with all the Crown land available. Why are they not making more land available so that the number of farms and farmers may be increased?
– Because the Commonwealth has not provided the money to enable them to do so.
– That is not true, and the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) knows it. My retort to him is that so much money has been granted by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government over the past three years that that Government has an amount of £16,000,000 unexpended and unexpendable. The honorable member cannot get away with his statement. The fact is that Queensland is failing in its responsibility to make land available for those who want it, because there is obviously plenty of good fertile land available in Queensland which could be added to that State’s productive capacity. Land tax is a tax on incentive and takes away from producers money that they should be able to plough back into productive efforts. I support the abolition of land tax because a reduction of tax will thereby be effected. As has already been stated, land tax is a sectional tax. Why should a small section of the community be taxed because they have invested in land, whilst others, who are resident upon Crown lands, are exempt from such tax? Why should those who are equally able to make profits and get results from land be exempt from tax whilst the small section who happen to own freehold land, and who are to be commended for putting their money into such an enterprise, are taxed ?
During this debate the argument has been put forward that originally it was intended that this tax would force the sub-division of large holdings. The tax did not achieve that purpose and, indeed, could not do so, because the percentage of land held- under freehold tenure is too small. It is reasonable to ask why land tax imposed by State governments has not been instrumental in breaking up large holdings and opening up additional lands. State-imposed land tax has succeeded only in driving people from the country areas. If land-holders become discouraged because of unnecessary, unfair and burdensome taxes, they leave the land. The population figures of our rural centres prove that people have left the country because of heavy taxes which have been imposed on every field of rural activity. Those taxes include the land tax and road transport taxes which have been imposed by the State governments. In fact, if a man is sufficiently enterprising to go on the land he must face a continual barrage of taxes.
I also support the abolition of land tax because if Commonwealth-imposed land tax were allowed to remain in force, the people affected by ‘ it would be thricetaxed. I believe that land should be taxed only once - by the local authorities, whose only opportunity to obtain revenue is by the imposition of land rates. I do not think that the States should also tax land-
– The States will tax it all right!
– Yes, I know they will. The Labour Governments in New South Wales and Queensland tax landowners heavily. Indeed, they tax away the desire to produce. Local authorities have little opportunity to acquire revenue, apart from the generous sums of money that they have been given by this Government for road construction purposes. Incidentally, the road grants have been increased by this Government to double the amount made available by the Labour Government. I make that statement in answer to a remark made by the honorable member for Wannon.
Honorable members opposite seem to understand that land tax applies to unimproved value only. That is not so. If unimproved value is the value of land when it is originally purchased, that value should remain constant, on a comparative basis, except for the value of improvements that are made on the land. Everybody knows that the more land is improved and the more progress is made in the country, the greater the burden of land tax. By way of illustration, let us consider the appraisement of rentals of leaseholds in the various States. I understand that State governments reserve the right to increase such rentals every seven years. In Queensland leasehold rentals have been increased enormously. Under the land act which was introduced recently in that State I know of a case where the original . rate of ltd. an acre was increased to lOd. an acre. It could not be seriously contended that there has been a 700 per cent, increase in the value of land, but the Queensland Government has taken advantage of the high price of produce and the progress that a certain district has made, and has appraised accordingly.
In effect, land tax is a tax upon tools of trade. Land is the means by which the people who own it endeavour to make their living, but it is not necessarily profitable. The honorable member for Wannon knows that to be so. It is anomalous to tax people when no profit is made. If droughts occur, obviously the debts of land-owners will increase if they arc obliged to pay land tax just the same. The imposition of land tax will take away money that should be used to expand production, to acquire plant, and to open up new lands and get them ploughed and worked. They will be handicapped because they will have no capital left for such purposes. Taxing tools of trade is entirely wrong. The land should be free of taxes, except for those imposed by local authorities. If a government taxes businesses upon the value of land from which no profit is earned, and in that way absorbs the capital of such businesses, employment will be affected. Indeed, if the land tax, which bears so heavily on some city properties, absorbs all their profits, or too great a percentage of them, they are obliged to curtail employment.
– The breweries will win through !
– The breweries support the Australian Labour party with funds, and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) knows all about that. They do not support the party to which I belong, and they certainly never support me because I have nothing to do with them.
-Order ! Party funds are not under discussion.
– If we take into consideration the cost of making lands productive, of erecting huge buildings in the cities and making them available for rental so that businesses may operate therein, we must have regard to the capital necessary. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) stated that if the Government remits land tax it should impose a tax on capital increment. I do not agree with that contention. The correct and the fairest way to tax people is on income, according to the profit made from capital invested. If the £7,000,000, which it to be remitted by virtue of the land tax abolition legislation, is to be considered as additional profit for land-owners, I suggest that that sum will be taxed by means of income tax, which is the just method. There is, therefore, no logic at all in. the opposition of the Australian Labour party to the measures with which we are dealing.
The final point I wish to make is that land tax is an unfair tax. I do not know a great deal about taxation on city properties because I have never been sufficiently fortunate to own such property. All my investment, as far as land is concerned, has been in farming property. The value of a property may be a certain amount, but it does not- follow that the property is free of debt and that the landholder’s equity represents its value. Many men on the land, like many city propertyowners, have not been able to pay cash for their land. Another reason why the land tax operates unjustly is that most farmers who have the initiative to go on the land and undertake dairy-farming or agriculture, are prepared to take the risk of buying their land on deposit and paying it off over a term of years. The Labour party advocates that the Government should levy taxes on the full value of the land although the owner of it has paid only a fraction of that value. The Labour party does not want to give the man on the land a chance to keep his head above water, and it does not want to give him any opportunity to pay his way, pay off his farm and increase the production of our primary products. The Opposition obviously desires to nail the farmers down so that they cannot increase their capital. In effect, the Labour party says, “ Let us grind the farmer down; we do not want him to own any property “.
Let all men on the land fully realize the attitude of the Labour party, including the attitude of the honorable member for Wannon. I noticed that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was standing at the door of this chamber a few minutes ago. Apparently he is not prepared to enter the House to tell the primary producers of EdenMonaro where he stands on this matter. However, when the bills are put to the vote we shall all know where he stands. We shall then know whether he has the true interests of the primary producer at heart and whether he is prepared to consider those who are carrying heavy burdens of debts on their shoulders because they want to try to better their positions by their own efforts and increase production in the interests of the country.
It is most unfair to tax people who have built structures on valuable land in our cities and who are now letting out those properties for rent. The rents of properties located in the States are controlled by various rent-controlling and pricefixing authorities who have not always allowed for owners’ increased costs to enable them to get a fair return for their investments. I have had my attention drawn to many instances in which the whole cost of keeping a city structure functioning amounts to more than the rents that the State authorities allow to be charged. Obviously no man can continue the service of owning and letting property if he is not to get at least some return on the capital that he has invested. If the primary producing industry is to be taxed in a similar way and the farmer is not to get a fair return on his capital, then employment will be affected and the Government parties stand to-day - as they have always stood - for a policy of full employment. In conclusion, let me reiterate my reasons for supporting this measure. It is a reduction of taxation in the right direction. Land tax is a sectional tax and, as such, should be eliminated, especially as it affects those who are trying to increase our production. It is a tax thrice imposed on land, and not necessarily imposed on land that has been paid for. Land taxes are at present being imposed by the Australian Government, the State governments and local authorities. This Government is trying to make the correct approach, by eliminating the federal tax. Land tax is, in effect, a tax on tools of trade, and the Government parties do not believe in taxing the instrument that produces the income of a taxpayer; we believe in giving a fair go to every man so that he can make a living. The land tax restrains business expansion and it is a totally unfair tax. I have much pleasure in supporting the bills now before honorable members.
– There are two bills before the House at present. The first is a taxation administration bill, about which we have not heard much, and the second is a land tax abolition bill. Any one who has carefully followed the debate to-day will appreciate the difference between the attitude of Government supporters and that of the Opposition. The Opposition is in favour of retaining a tax on those . who are in a position to pay for the administration of this country. We believe that there should be no remission of taxation for those who do not need it, and that if there is to be any remission it should be in favour of those who need it most. . The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) said that the States could deal with land settlement matters and make land available for closer settlement. He said that it was quite obvious that the States had failed in their duty to make more Crown land available for settlement. About twenty years ago, during the depth of the depression, I approached the Labour Minister for Lands in South Australia and said to him : “ A number of unemployed men who want to work on the land have approached me. Can you find out what Crown land is available and let me know whether these men can settle on it ? “ He investigated the position and informed me later that the only piece of Crown land available was a small area at Hope Forest. I inspected the land with the Minister and found it covered with bush and scrub, within a few miles of the railway and alongside a main road. Twelve or thirteen men took up small allotments of 300 or 400 acres, cleared them and carried on dairying activities. That illustrates that State governments are not in a position to make Crown land available for settle ment. Most of our land is held by people who got it years ago for next to nothing. Some of their land was almost a free grant.
The descendants of the pioneers have been mentioned in the debate. To-day, many of the people who own our best land have done nothing at all to earn it because they have received it from their parents. If honorable members visit any of our stud stock sales they will see animals sold for hundreds and, in some instances, thousands of guineas. The pedigrees of those animals extend back for many years to the time when the original owners of the land on which they were bred received the land practically as a free gift. Many of the people who at present own large tracts of good land did not pay for it.
– Most of the land that the honorable member is now talking about is leasehold.
– Much of it is not leasehold. Reference has been made to the development in the 90-mile desert and what has been accomplished by means of research on the part of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. They have found a trace element that is suitable for that country. As I drove through that area only recently and saw what was needed to get it into production, I thought of the men with small capital who want to go on the land. I was thinking not in terms of laud tax, but of the capital outlay and the hard work that would be required. My companion drew attention to the size of the area. We passed through miles of beautiful park-like country. There was not a house to be seen and feed 2 feet high was going to waste. Why? Because the tax that was imposed to break up estates 30 years ago had failed to do so. Men should not be asked to go on to poor land while country like that is not being fully utilized.
The State governments have been accused of having failed to promote land settlement. The Australian Government proposes to throw away the only control that it had over the land. That was the land tax. Many men who are engaged in industry have told me that they want to go on the land. About two months ago I was challenged at a public meeting by a man who told me that he wanted to do so. I asked him, how he proposed to go on to the land and he said, “ It is your job to put me there “. I told him that no Australian government, not even a Labour government, had power to put one man on the land except under the scheme for the settlement of ex-servicemen with the cooperation of the States. Under Commonwealth legislation, the Australian Government can do nothing in that respect. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from a recent conference in London urging Australians to increase primary production, yet this Government proposes to abolish the land tax which was the only control that it had over the land. The honorable member for Fisher said that he believed in a just tax. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) supported him in that statement and said, in effect, “ We are not o noosed to the land tax, but we are opposed to an unjust tax “. If the land tax is unjust, the Government should impose a tax that will achieve what is required.
– The States will do it.
– In my State of South Australia, a Labour government will be elected next Saturday week, but in the Legislative Council the majority of the members are looking after the big landowners. There is little hope of doing anything effective with land settlement while that position continues. An immigrant arrived in South Australia recently with £700 or £800 and his family. He and his wife had been reared on the land in Ireland. He wanted to go on to the land and was prepared to go anywhere. He approached the Sta.te authorities but they could do nothing for him. They told him that they did not have enough suitable land to place the ex-servicemen whom they had trained for land settlement. When a government has no direct’ power to enable it to give effect to a policy that is in the interests of Australia it must use indirect methods. By way of analogy I direct the attention of honorable members to the housing agreement with the States. The only way to control that agreement is by finance. Similarly the only way to make land available is to bring some pressure to bear upon the States. Some honorable members remind me that the Labour party has a majority in both Houses in the New South Wales Parliament. In reply I recall that last year when the New South Wales Government wanted to take up land under the Federal-State agreement for the settlement of ex-servicemen, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said that they would have to pay a just price. According to honorable members on the Government side, a just price is the price that land will bring on the market to-day.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has indicated his approval of that statement. Some time ago the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) spoke about a just price in reference to the cost of production when he was addressing a conference of the Liberal party. He said that it was not possible to go on increasing the cost of production and then expect the public to pay. .He said that there was a breaking point. That is true. I believe that we are approaching the breaking point in Australia when men will not produce as much foodstuffs as they could because taxation would be too high. Honorable members on the Government side have referred to the large amount that was taken from farmers by way of land ta,x. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who has a comfortable holding, does not pay any land tax because the unimproved value of his land does not exceed £8,750. We should give consideration to the small man. This matter is of importance all over the world. An article that’ appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’ to-day, under the heading “ Guatemala Land Law “, is worth reading because it should make those who read it realize that we need just legislation, and not extreme measures, to ensure the proper distribution of land in Australia. The article reads -
The Government of the Central American Republic of Guatemala has begun distributing to peasants land taken from private estates under a new agrarian reform law, says the Guatemala city correspondent of the New York Times. There already has been bloodshed over the land distribution and every one is agreed that there will be more: but this prospect does not dismay the Government.
It is not a Labour or socialist government. I continue the quotation - “ Trouble stud violence had’ to come “, said the Gautemalan Minister of Economy, Mr. Roberto Fanjul. “You cannot carry out anything as basic as land reform without violence he said. “ In Mexico it cost 20,000 lives. If we get away with losing 200 we will consider ourselves fortunate.”
The article continues -
Seventy per cent, of the arable land in Guatemala ie owned by 2 per cent, of the population, according to official figures.
I invite honorable members to pay particular attention to the following words : -
Under the new law all uncultivated land or any share-cropped land is liable to expropriation on the petition of landless peasants in he area. Land-owners regard the law as the beginning of a process to eliminate their riches and their class.
Honorable members on this side of the House do not favour the adoption of revolutionary measures, but they contend that a government which has been elected on a democratic vote of the people has a responsibility to ensure that the land of Australia is properly administered. Honorable members opposite have referred to the need for increased primary production, particularly of foodstuffs. Learned economists, who advise the Government, have told us that unless the production of meat and other foodstuffs is increased, by 1960 - only seven years hence - we shall not have sufficient to meet the requirements of our own people. The Government should give careful consideration to warnings of that kind. If the estimates of these experts are soundly based the Government should take immediate action to make the land of Australia available to people who want to settle on it, and it should take appropriate measures to ensure that all land is utilized in the best possible way. Scientific development in farming has resulted in increased yields of crops of all kinds and scientific sheep breeding has greatly increased the wool clip. I do not belittle the efforts of agricultural scientists and of the breeders of stud sheep. I realize the tremendous value of the work they are doing for Australia. But despite their labours, unless land is made available to a larger proportion of the people, a day of reckoning will come for governments, in both the Commonwealth and State spheres, which neglect their responsibilities in that regard. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has warned us of the disastrous results that may flow from the wrangling that goes on between the Commonwealth and the States. The right honorable gentleman has said that unless the Commonwealth and the States can settle their differences the federation may be destroyed. State governments cannot continue to apply selfish land policies without endangering the future of the Commonwealth.
The abolition of the land tax will not result in a heavy loss of revenue but it represents a departure from an important principle in our taxation laws. By abolishing the land tax the Government has thrown away the only means it has had to ensure that the lands of Australia shall be properly utilized. Honorable members opposite have said that the land tax has not achieved its original purpose of bringing about the subdivision of large estates. I admit that land tax collections are only a fleabite compared with total tax collections and that the amount of land tax paid by a large landholder would not prevent him from buying, say, a new Jaguar motor car or some other high priced motor vehicle. The point that I wish to emphasize is that land tax is not paid by the small farmers who produce the great bulk of the wealth from the lands of Australia. Only those whose properties had an unimproved value of more than £8,750 were subject to the tax. A fact that seems to have escaped the attention of many honorable members opposite is that a. farmer with a property of an unimproved value of £10,000 paid tax, not on the £10,000, but only on the value of his property in excess of £8,750, or £1,250.
The land tax was imposed by the Fisher Labour Government 43 years ago, when land values were very much lower than they are to-day, for the purpose of breaking up large estates. In the early years following the imposition of the tax many large estates were subdivided. In England, many large estates were disposed of and subdivided as the result not of government resumptions but of the imposition of high rates of tax on large landholders. Very few old English families now possess the large estates which they held 50 years ago with the result that production has considerably increased.
Recently, I visited an area near Narracoorte, in South Australia, where many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land. Houses are being constructed, road plants are being utilized for the making of roads and there is tremendous activity in all directions, because it is realized that the land in the area will soon produce two or three times as much as it did when it was hold by its original owners.
The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) said that many city firms had to reduce production and dispense with some of their staffs because of the imposition of federal land tax. I have yet to hear of a firm in Adelaide that has had to reduce production, or dispense with the services of employees because of the incidence of the federal land tax. Where such action has been taken other factors have been responsible.
In introducing his second-reading speech on the Taxation Administration Bill, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said -
The bill also provides for the offices of deputy commissioners of taxation which, at present, are provided for in the separate taxation acts administered by the Commissioner of Taxation.
The right honorable gentleman continued -
Valuation boards were originally set up as appeals tribunals for the settlement of disputes regarding the value of land for land tax purposes. With the subsequent enactment of estate duty and gift duty, the boards have been required to settle disputes about real estate values, share values and the like for the purposes of those acts.
Many complaints have been made to me about the method by which land is valued for estate and gift duty. My attention was directed to a case which related to a house that had cost its owner £1,000. Departmental valuers valued that property for estate duty at £3,500 on the basis of a sale that had been made in the neighbourhood. All honorable members realize that property values have risen sharply during the last few years. But none of us can say for certain that within the next five or six years present values may not decline just as sharply. In the case to which I refer, the sale which was taken as an indication of local values was not a genuine sale in that the purchaser was prepared to pay almost any price in order to have a roof over his head. Government officials have told me in reply to complaints of this kind that they were prepared, if necessary, to go to court to prove that their valuation was fair and reasonable. Valuers employed by the department have told me that they have been instructed to follow the method of valuation that I have indicated. Indeed, they have gone so far as to say that the Australian Labour party has fallen down on its job in failing to protest effectively against the use of such a method. I often wonder whether the department is not overvaluing property for duty purposes. I am inclined to believe that many of the complaints against the methods employed in valuing properties for estate duty and gift duty are justified. It is common knowledge that properties fetch abnormally high prices simply because the purchasers are unable to obtain houses elsewhere. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to this matter in order to ensure that injustice shall not be done in this matter. At the moment I am unable to cite a specific case. I make this protest on the basis of complaints which many persons have made to me. I oppose both of the measures before the Chair. Land tax was abolished under a measure that was passed last year and these bills are designed to implement that policy. When the Australian Labour party is returned to office, it will certainly re-impose Commonwealth land tax, not as a sectional tax but because it believes in the principle of land tax. I, personally, shall be prepared to go further and see whether in cooperation with the States land tax cannot be made completely effective as a means of forcing land-owners to utilize their land to its full capacity.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The object of the two measures before the Chair is to effect the abolition of the land tax which was provided for under a measure that was passed last year. The Australian Labour party is bitterly opposed to these measures because it stands for the socialization of the mean3 of production distribution and exchange. Labour’s policy is to socialize the land. I recall that on one occasion in this House a Minister in a Labour government declared that he did not want to make little capitalists by helping people to own their own homes. In the course of this debate the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) revived that approach to private ownership of property. He said, in effect, that land tax was socially necessary. In his view, it is socially necessary because such a tax will enable the Australian Labour party to socialize the land. His colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), said that land tax was a means of taking from land-owners a proportion of what belonged to the community. That statement reflects the mind of members of the Australian Labour party on this matter. They believe that the community owns the land. In effect, they contend that the community owns every house. Therefore, if their party is returned to office they will be justified in re-imposing land tax. Whilst the honorable member for Melbourne says that land tax is socially necessary and the honorable member for Fawkner upholds the principle of community ownership of property of all kinds, the Liberal party believes in the right of a private individual to own his home and the land which he occupies free from a confiscatory form of tax. The honorable member for Fawkner also said that Labour advocated the imposition of land tax as a means of taking a percentage of the communitycreated value of land. The honorable member for Melbourne declared in no uncertain terms, as he has on many occasions in this House, that when Labour was returned to office it would reimpose land tax. On the other hand, the Liberal party believes in the abolition of land tax and, consequently, this Government has proceeded to abolish it.
There are many reasons why land tax should be abolished. The first of them is that it is the most expensive of all forms of tax to collect. That cost represents a very high percentage of the revenue that is derived from the tax. Secondly, land tax is an unjust form of tax. It is not based on either productivity or profit. A person is obliged to pay tax on land on which he may make a loss. During the depression in the thirties and other periods of economic adversity many land-owners were obliged to pay high rates of tax merely because they owned land and regardless of whether they made a profit from it. Thirdly, the taxation of land is essentially the responsibility of local government bodies which provide services that enhance the value of land upon which they levy rates. Those authorities provide roads, drainage and scores of other facilities for the assistance and benefit of land-owners within their boundaries. Therefore, it is only right and proper that land-owners should pay municipal and shire rates in order to finance the provision of such services. But what service does the Commonwealth provide for land-owners? Land tax was imposed originally for the purpose of breaking up big estates. In that respect, it has failed miserably. Big estates have not been broken up ; on the contrary, there has been a tendency towards the aggregation of estates. The Commonwealth does not render services to the land-owner, and, therefore, has no right to tax him. But the local governing bodies do render most valuable services to the land-owner and, consequently are perfectly justified in taxing or rating the land. At present, local governing bodies are in a serious financial positon. They all have developmental programmes within their particular areas, and need more money than is now available to them. As the result of the action of this Government, the land is now the province, for taxation purposes, of local governing bodies and, for that matter, State governments, which, like the local authorities, provide valuable services for the assistance of the land-owner.
Land tax as imposed by the Commonwealth has borne extraordinarily heavily upon such organizations as friendly societies. In order to carry on the administration of their business, friendly societies must acquire buildings in th capital cities. Many of these organizations found that the burden of Commonwealth land tax was so heavy that they were virtually unable to carry on their operations. The action of this Government in abolishing Commonwealth land tax has been a great boon to friendly societies and similar bodies.
Members of the Labour party have put forward the- completely erroneous submission that Commonwealth land tax has been paid by the big company and the big businessman. I shall expose the fallacy of that contention. The big company, if it is a retail store or an industry, includes Commonwealth land tax as a direct charge in the cost of production. The amount of the tas so paid is immediately passed into cost, and, therefore, is paid, not by the big company, but by the consumers of the goods who, in the main are the small men. Land tax has always been an allowable deduction for income tax purposes and, therefore, a big company deducts from its income tax assessment the amount that it has paid in land tax. As companies pay tax at the rate of 9s. or 10s. in the £1, the amount of land tax actually borne by big companies is infinitesimal. It is either paid by the consumer or is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. Therefore, some of the revenue which will be lost as a result of the abolition of the land tax will be recovered in the much fairer form of income tax.
The primary producer is probably the only person in the community who cannot pass on land tax, because he has to sell his commodities in the markets of the world. Therefore, the groups that have really been hit by land tax in the past are organizations of a non-profit-making nature, such as friendly societies, and primary producers. If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) ever has the opportunity to carry out his threat to re-impose land tax, the sections that will be hit most heavily will be the primary producers, non-profit making organizations such as friendly societies, and the consuming public. The big business man and the big company will go scot-free for the simple reason that they either pass on the land tax in their costs or deduct the amount in the computation of their income tax.
Several honorable members who have participated in this debate have made the extraordinary statement that this Government has not increased production, particularly primary production. I remind the House that wheat production for the year 1951-52 was 161,000,000 bushels and that for this year it is 179,000,000 bushels. The production of sugar has increased from 725,000 tons to 940,000 tons in the same period. The production of secondary industries has also increased. The output of black coal lose from 16,000,000 tons to 19,000,000 tons in the period to which I have referred. When the Labour Government was in office, industry could not obtain sufficient coal for its requirements. Now that the Liberal Government is in power and has adopted a sensible system of taxation, production in all primary and secondary industries has increased by leaps and bounds.
How do Opposition members explain the remarkable recovery in our overseas funds if production has not increased substantially? I remind the House that for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, Australia’s trade deficit exceeded £500,000,000. This year, our trade surplus will be in excess of £300,000,000, representing a recovery of approximately £800,000,000, one half of which is due to increased production and increased exports, and the other half to reduced imports. Therefore, the assertion that production has not increased while this Government has been in office is completely erroneous. The truth is that never in the history of the Commonwealth has production increased at such a rate as it has under this Government. The Menzies Government has faced terrific difficulties including the war situation in Korea, and heavy expenditure on defence, and “ galloping “ inflation inherited from the Labour Government; but notwithstanding those great difficulties which this Government has encountered, the economy is in a sounder position to-day than at any time in the history of the Commonwealth. Our prices have been stabilized, and production is expanding, due to a large degree to the lead given by the
Government and to the loyal support of primary producers and those engaged in secondary industry, who have increased the production.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) said that the New South Wales Government imposed State land tax. That assertion is completely erroneous. The New South Wales Government does not impose land tax, and probably the Premier of that State knows the reason for that. However, the Commonwealth has no justification for taxing the land. A tax on land should be imposed by local governing bodies in order to provide certain services, and by State governments, which are responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and the provision of water supplies. Unless a government or local authority does something that enhances the value of the land, it has no right to tax the land. The land is just as much the stock-in-trade of the primary producer as tools are the stockintrade of the carpenter. We do not say to a carpenter, “ We are going to tax your tools of trade. You must pay this tax whether you make a profit or a loss ‘’. Why, then, should we say to the farmer, “ Because you own land, and because land is your means of livelihood, we shall tax you on the value of that land whether you make a profit from it or not “ ? The taxing of land is justified only when a local governing authority or a State government provides services for the benefit of that land and so increases its value. We have heard quite a lot about land-owners in Melbourne and elsewhere who, according to honorable members opposite, have become rich because of the enhanced value of their land. I remind the House that land has little or no value unless something is done to it. We have been told about Howey Court, in Melbourne. I do not know the circumstances of that matter, but I do know that Howey Court is not vacant land. Many years ago, somebody had the courage to risk his money on the erection of buildings on that land and so made that land of some value. The fact that buildings were established on that land promoted the growth of Melbourne. What is the use of having a lot of land if nothing is being done with it ?
– That is the point.
– Yes, but honorable members opposite complain because people who have erected buildings on their land and so increased its value are benefiting from their enterprise. The Labour party, according to the honorable member for Melbourne, who is its deputy leader, believes that it is socially necessary to have a land tax. His view is that because land-owners erect buildings and so increase the value of their land, so that towns grow where there were no towns before, it is socially necessary virtually to confiscate land and pass it on to the community. The Labour party cannot get away from the fact that, in its policy, and throughout the speeches of its members, there is clear advocacy of the socialization not only of land but also of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
. - I regard the speech of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) as the most remarkable in this debate. He claimed that the Opposition was opposed to this measure only because of Labour’s policy. He then went on to enlighten the world on his interpretation of Labour’s policy. If the honorable member had said that Labour did not believe in relieving wealthy propertyowners of their obligation to pay land tax while the basic wage-earner, with a wife and two children, was called upon to pay £20 15s. 5d. annually in income tax, the Labour party would agree with him entirely. We know that the abolition of the land lax will be worth between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 to certain selected taxpayers, and we make no apology for our claim that if tax remissions are to be granted, they should be granted first to those members of the community who are least able to bear the burden of heavy taxation. When one finds that, in spite of the fact that our arbitration authorities have fixed a certain wage as being the minimum on which a man, wife, and two children can live, the Government insists upon deducting the sum of £20 15s. 5d. annually from that wage, no one who is worthy of the name of Labour could fail to oppose with all his strength any proposal that tax relief should be granted to any other section of the community. Of the total revenue obtained from the land tax, only £50,000 is derived from the farming community. It is clear, therefore, that the abolition of the land tax will not assist in any substantial measure the expansion of primary production. It will not help those needy individuals who are most deserving of tax relief, and it will contribute nothing to the purchasing power of the people or arrest the growth of inflation. Where will the £7,000,000 go? Will it go into the pockets of people who will increase their purchases of the commodities that this community produces? The honorable member for Sturt claimed that production in this country had never before been as high as it is to-day under the administration of the Menzies Government. If that is so, I remind him that that high rate of production has been achieved while the land tax has been in operation. That fact hardly supports his arguments in favour of the abolition of the land tax. By claiming that the abolition of the land tax will benefit friendly societies and other similar institutions, whereas in point of fact the greatest harvest will be reaped by the breweries and other large commercial enterprise such as the Myer Emporium Limited, which own big city properties, the honorable member for Sturt sought to bridge a gap in his argument with a structure that will not carryweight. Admittedly the land tax has not achieved entirely the purpose for which it was imposed in 1910, but the remedy does not lie in the abolition of the tax. The claim by honorable members opposite that most of the revenue is contributed, not by rural land-owners, but by the owners of large city properties, seems to indicate that the tax has at least partially achieved its purpose. Otherwise the farmers of Australia would have been paying more than £50,000 a year in land tax. The Government has now taken the lid off and has virtually invited large land-holders to increase their aggregations of property and thereby reduce the area available to others who are hungry for land.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the administration of certain acts relating to taxation, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Delegation by Commissioner).
– During the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill,
I drew attention to sub-clause (1.), which reads -
The Commissioner of Taxation may, in relation to a matter or class of matters, or in relation to a State or part of the Commonwealth, by writing under his hand, delegate to a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation or other person all or any of his powers or functions under an Act which is an Act with respect to taxation (except this power of delegation).
Will the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric j. Harrison) inform me of the precise meaning of the words “ in relation to a matter or class of matters, or in relation to a State or part of the Commonwealth”? The First Schedule to the bill shows that the Commissioner of Taxation has to function in many capacities and in different States. I assume that in relation to some administrative matters it will be necessary for him to delegate his authority to his deputy in a State. Could not this lead to a lack of uniformity in the various States ? If the Commissioner were to delegate his power in relation to a certain matter to his Deputy Commissioners in Melbourne and Sydney, what guarantee have we that the Deputy Commissioner in Sydney would give a decision in relation to one of those matters in line with a decision on that matter given by the Deputy Commissioner in Melbourne? I should like the Minister to clarify the kind of subject-matters that are envisaged by this provision. It may be that there is no harm in the wording of the clause, but, we pride ourselves on uniformity throughout Australia under the present system of taxation. Can the Minister assure the committee that the proposed delegation of authority will not upset the present uniformity? If the Minister cannot see his way clear to explain the meaning of the clause at this stage, I suggest that further consideration of it be postponed for the time being. I consider that the committee should not commit itself to the vague wording of the clause, in the absence of an adequate explanation by the Minister.
– I can understand the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) considering that this clause requires further explanation, but it is quite a simple matter. His suspicions are completely unfounded. This is what is generally called a delegation clause. Each taxation act contains a delegation clause in terms similar to the terms of this clause. As a result of experience gained over a great number of years it has been found advisable to facilitate administration by including the delegation power in legislation of this kind instead of in each taxation act. The clause enables the Commissioner of Taxation to delegate to another person his powers or functions other than the power of delegation itself. I am sure that the honorable member will appreciate the necessity for this provision and that any suspicions he may have can be easily resolved.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill -by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page 29), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- At Glenroy, in my electorate, the War Service Homes Division has built, possibly by contract, a group of 80 homes for returned soldiers and the widows of soldiers. These people have informed mo that they signed the contracts for the purchase of these homes at a specific price. On obtaining the keys and taking possession of the homes they were informed that owing to rising costs they would have to pay a price from £100 to £150 higher than the price that they had agreed to pay. Further, owing to costing not having been concluded, there may be even further rises in the prices at which the houses are to be charged to them. That in itself requires some explanation from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) and the War Service Homes Division. The occupants of the houses have been complaining to the division for more than two months of very serious constructional faults in their homes. At their request, I visited the settlement and made a thorough inspection, in company with the occupants, of a number of those homes. I can only say that they are a disgrace to the contractors. In the first instance, they are a disgrace to the War Service
Homes Division, insofar as it obviously failed to ensure that the homes were properly inspected during construction and subsequently were of a substantially decent standard. I know something of the building industry. Briefly, because my time is limited-
– Hear, hear!
– I shall enumerate some of the faults that are apparent in. those homes. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) may laugh. He is an ex-serviceman, and I should have thought that he would have had some sympathy in respect of complaints of this sort by other ex-servicemen. I shall take, seriatim, the particular faults that I found in those homes. The window frames are of an exceedingly light construction. That in itself is bad enough, but in some cases insufficient attention bad been paid during construction to the wedging of the frames in the frame of the house, with the result that in some cases the frame is open at the mitre joint in the corner. Builders in this chamber will understand what that means. Worse still, the window sashes will not in many cases fit down flush with the window-sill and in one particular instance one end of a window is half an inch open when the other is closed. That shows carelessness on the part of the contractors because those window sashes should have been planed off until they fitted down flush on the sill. Because window flashings have not been made effective, in recent rainy weather the water penetrated some houses and has stained the plaster. The tiles on the roof in many instances are apparently of inferior quality, and water has leaked through on to the plaster of both walls and ceilings of some houses and caused stains. In one house the leak in the roof is so bad that the electric light wire serving the porch fused, and the light there is out of action. The doors are a positive disgrace. They are of three-ply construction, with a wooden frame, and I do not think that there is one of them, in more than a dozen houses that I inspected, that fit3 plumb against the door stops of the door frame itself. When they are purposed to be closed they are partly open. They were manufactured of timber which was inadequately seasoned and were fitted badly. No ex-servicemen should be asked to occupy a house that has been built in such a shoddy manner.
In a number of cases the architraves surrounding the doors, and the mitre joints which should be neatly cut and fitted, looked as if they were cut by a school child or an amateur. One can understand a carpenter cutting a mitre joint somewhat out of plumb, but at least it ought to be planed down so that it finishes up as a tradesman-like job. One architrave I saw was completely riddled with borers. Can any one truthfully say there was adequate inspection of these homes during and after their construction, when an architrave which was riddled from top to bottom with borers was included in one of them. The borers are so bad that I saw something that I have never before seen in my life. To get themselves out of the frame the borers bored their way through the fibro-plaster. It is a condition of Commonwealth Bank loans in relation to the construction of these houses that every home must be disinfected at a certain stage of construction in order to prevent vermin infestation, and I should like to know whether that was done in relation to those homes. The floors of the houses are faulty. They have been badly cramped. In the middle of one room in one of the houses there is a gap of a quarter of an inch. Apparently the person who put the floor down found, when he reached the middle of the room, that the boards had bellied up. The skirting boards do not fit down neatly. Apparently this is a laughing matter to some members of the Government. The boards are so badly bedded down that a piece of quod has been put in to hide the fault in the flooring. The cupboard doors are made of timber and do not’ close properly. They are a downright disgrace.
Of even more consequence is the fact that the electricity work in the homes is a positive menace. Several of the homes are fitted with Sydney-made electric stoves, most of which are partly out of action. In one stove that I saw the racks which hold the grids on which joints are roasted are too narrow. They are flimsy, being made of kerosene tin gauge sheet iron and a housewife changing the position of a roast in the oven might find, if she is not careful, that the joint has dropped to the floor while she is moving it. The electricity work is so bad that in one case when an iron is switched on in the kitchen a flame arcs across the switch and shows up in the room. It is possible that inadequate gauge wire was used. I am informed that stoves of that make are on sale in Melbourne retail shops at a price which, I have been told, although 1 do not know whether the statement is true, is substantially lower than that charged by the commission to the occupants of the homes. Although the tenants have complained for more than two months I am informed that no substantial action has been taken to remedy the faults disclosed. I should like to know whether the cost of constructing these houses had added to it £100 or £150 extra to cover the contractor if ever he is required to repair or ma.ke good deficiencies caused by faulty construction. The homes, which are at Glenroy, look very nice from the road that the shire council has constructed, because they are nicely painted, but any man who has a pride in his home or any tradesman who has a pride in his work, whether he be a bricklayer, a tiler, an electrician or other building tradesman, would consider them to be a thorough scandal. Some of the exservicemen in those homes are articulate and are able to insist on getting value for their money, but other occupants are war widows. One can imagine the prospects of war widows of getting anything done unless their complaints are raised in this House. I am prepared to make an inspection of the settlement with the Minister, to support, personally, every complaint I have made, and to stake my reputation on the truth of my disclosures. It may be that when the Minister makes inquiries he will be informed that when people become the occupants of those homes they are fully aware that there is a period of time called “maintenance time “ during which the contractor has time to rectify various faults. The truth is that some of the faults in those homes are so fundamental that they should have been corrected during: construction.
– Order !_ The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is not. often that I am called upon to defend any of the building and other practices of the War Service Homes Division. If there is one matter in which this Government can take justifiable pride, it is the activities of that division. In three years thepresent Government has provided more money for war service homes than has any other government in the history of Australia. We have provided 50 per cent, more money for that purpose than have all the other governments during the past 30 years. We have made available more than 45 per cent, of all the homes that have been provided during our term of three years in office. It is idle for the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to criticize an organization which has done such a magnificent job. The officers of the division are competent and efficient, and one of the most competent of all is the man in charge in Victoria, Mr. Bell. The honorable member for Lalor makes an attack to-night on Mr. Bell and his officers, but does not say that he has been to see Mr. Bell. He merely states that some one in this group of homes has told him something. He then sees fit to come here and make scandalous accusations against the staff of the War Service Homes Division. It is true that he states that he himself has been to investigate the homes. I accept his word for that. I understand that the honorable member is a farmer. I do not know how he would react if an officer of the War Service Homes Division took it upon himself to advise the honorable member about farming methods.
The first specific statement made by the honorable member was that the people concerned had been required to pay some additional money. He supplied no facts in that connexion. It may be that they were required to do so during the maintenance period, but it is more likely that they had been provided with homes under a contract which contained a riseandfall clause. As honorable members know, for several years it was not possible to engage a contractor to build a home unless the contract contained a rise-and-fall clause. In recent months, since, under this Government, things have become much better, we have been able to engage many contractors who will give us firm, specific prices for jobs. Every ex-serviceman now knows exactly how much he will have to pay for a home before building commences.
The second complaint made by the honorable member was in regard to the construction of the homes. I should like to hear him say that he had been to the division office in Melbourne with his complaints, or that he had written to the division personally, and that neglect had been proved. However, there was nothing of that kind. The honorable member merely made charges. What the division knows about the matter I am not aware. Certainly, these complaints have never come to my notice. I assure the honorable member however, that, immediately it is possible. I shall have those properties examined and if the conditions to which he has referred are proved to exist - and they may - I shall see that justice is done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian National University Act -
Sta tutes -
No 8 - Chancellorship.
No. 9 - Board of Graduate Studies
Amendment No. 1.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (5).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Supply - B. Toner.
Treasury - R. Shilkin.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1953 - No. 3 - Australian National University (Lands).
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Yes. 2 and 3. The United Kingdom Government has indicated to the Commonwealth Government its estimates of certain food requirements in time of international emergency. For obvious reasons particulars of these requirements cannot be divulged. In any case Australian food production aims must be based on wider considerations than any estimated requirements of the United Kingdom Government.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Yes.
a asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that it is about three years since Commonwealth public servants had some general adjustment of their salaries and that this reference of theii claims to the Full Court is likely to delay determination for several years!
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are asfollows : -
asked the Minister- for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for iSocial Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as . follows : -
a asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
1940-50, 300,000 feet (United Kingdom); 1.050-51, 280,240 feet (Germany); 1051-52, nil. In respect of 1050-51, I would’ mention that tenders were called to cover the Commonwealth-wide requirements of the Department of Works. Seventeen tenders were received of which three only were from local manufacturers. They were Hoffman Brick and Potteries Limited, Brunswick; Bendigo Pottery Limited, Bendigo, and Martin Stoneware Pipes Limited, Ballarat. The combined quote from these three Arms covered only the total requirements for Victoria; the offers were accepted’ and orders placed totalling more than £11,000. Tenders were recalled for the Commonwealth-wide requirements, nine tenders being received, none of which were from local manufacturers. An order was placed with a Melbourne firm which was acting as agent fora German manufacturer.
It is doubtful whether any substantial reduction in the order will be possible, as the pipes were specially manufactured to the specification of the Department of Works and would not be readily saleable on the continent. In addition, irrevocable letters of credit covering the order were established quite some time before import restrictions were introduced. You may rest assured that, in view of the delivery position of local pipes, the Department of Works will purchase future requirements from local sources whenever such arc available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530224_reps_20_221/>.