4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In this morning’s newspaper the Minister of Defence is reported to have made some comments on a cablegram announcing the placing of orders for the construction of cruisers in British ship-yards, some of them being intended for Australia. He is reported to have made a reference to what has been done to carry out, I take it, the agreement arrived at by the previous Government. Has he any objection to tell the Senate what steps other than those which he mentioned have been taken to complete the Australian unit ?
– If the honorable senator will look up my speech on the Naval Defence Bill he will find that I went fully into the question.
– There is nothing supplementary to that?
– I gathered from the newspaper report of your statement that something had transpired since then.
– The only thing which may have transpired since then regarding the three cruisers - and I am not sure that it has - is that the, Admiralty called for tenders for the construction of a number of cruisers. They informed us of the prices submitted, and told us in their communication that they proposed to distribute orders among a number of different yards, and suggested two firms that should construct the two Australian cruisers which were to be built in England, and asked for our concurrence. I forget the names ofthe firms in question, but I think that Campbell Laird and Company was one of them. We have concurred in the. orders being placed with the firms, and, in addition to constructing a cruiser, one of them will supply the material for a third cruiser. I am not sure as to whether I mentioned that in my speech, or whether it has occurred since that event but with that exception I think that I explained everything else when I introduced the Naval Defence Bill.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence the following questions without notice: -
In the Legislative Council the case of J. Wise, whose dismissal from his post as warder at Fremantle gaol was discussed in the Senate on Wednesday, was brought up by Mr. Kirwan.
The Colonial Secretary said, in reply, that the exigencies of the prison service necessitated the Controller-General requesting the resignations from the defence forces of two warders in Fremantle, as their military duties interfered with their duties as warders. One sent in his resignation, but the other warder (Wise) persisted in refusing, though warned of the consequence. The action of Government servants in joining the militia and volunteer forces met with the approval of the Ministry, provided the military service did not interfere with their duty in the departments. The Commonweal th Government recognised the difficulties attending the matter, and the Amending Defence Bill provided for exemption from service of persons employed in the police and prison service.
– Yesterday evening I received from the Premier of Western Australia the following reply : -
Regret delay replying your telegram thirteenth. Warder Wise was requested to resign military forces as duties interfered with prison duties. State Commandant was consulted and agreed without hesitation to grant free discharge, recognising nature of two duties must clash - see section 7, amendment Defence Act. Wise was warned of consequences, but persisted in refusing, and was dismissed for disobedience of orders Controller-General. In view of section referred to there appear to be no grounds for reconsideration.
Yesterday I instructed the Military Commandant of Western Australia by wire to report on the matter from his point of view. In regard to what Senator Needham has stated, it is perfectly correct, as I mentioned the other evening, that the section referred to does not exempt men from training, but exempts men from service in time of war.
– That applies to men under 26 years of age?
– Yes. I am making representations to the Government of Western Australia, and the point which Senator Needham mentioned will, together with others, be submitted for consideration.
– Has the Minister of Defence yet received any report in relation, to the Williamstown markers’ incident?
– No report is available yet, nor do I anticipate that one will be available this week for the reason that the Rifle Association officials, who will have to be called and give evidence, are busily engaged. I have instructed the Inspector-General to treat the matter as urgent, and report thereon at the earliest possible moment.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council state at what period of the sessions 1908 and 1909 the report in connexion with the administration of Papua was laid on the table of the Senate?
– In 1909 the report was not laid on the table of the Senate at all, but it was presented to the other House on the 7 th December. In 1908 the report was not presented to the Senate, but it was laid on the table of the other House on the nth December.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs now in a position to acquaint the Senate with the total number of Kanakasin Queensland?
– In reply to this question which was asked a few days ago, I have received from the Minister of Trade and Customs the following communication : -
With reference to your inquiries regarding the number of South Sea Island Kanakas residing in Queensland, I beg to inform you the Collector, Queensland, advises that the Immigration Agent estimates the number at 1,400, including 300 estimated as remaining out of 865 granted State exemptions in 1884. The exemption conditions required the person to be over twenty-one years of age and to have resided in Queensland at least five years. No permits have been granted by the Queensland Government since 1884.
– Can the Minister state the number of Kanakas in New South’ Wales? I may mention that there are a good many in the northern district of that State.
– I do not think that it will be possible to give the number of Kanakas in New South Wales until the resuits of the census are known, for the simple reason that as they were not there under statute law no record was kept.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the fol lowing paper : -
Contraband Goods : Rewards to officers of Customs, Sydney, for seizures effected from 1st June, 1903, to 1st February, 1904.
Debate resumed from 2nd October(vide page 4910), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [10.39]. - I wish to give some reasons why I strongly oppose this Bill, and why I intend to vote against the second reading, and I wish also to appeal to my honorable friends of the Ministerial party to reconsider the attitude which they take up, both as to the subject-matter of the Bill and the object which they apparently have in view. I cannot agree with some of my honorable friends on this side, and regard the situation as one of despair, or even of dismay.
I am sorry they should have made. Still it represents the position, and it is because I felt that that was the position taken up by the Government that at the outset I said I intended to appeal with a few reasons for a reconsideration of the subject. I am not deterred by the interjections that have been made.
It may be safely asserted that from 125 to 150 persons are being materially assisted in obtaining a living on the land in question. The ostensible reason for a land tax is to break up large estates, in order that they may support more people.
But we maintain that the estate which we represent has been, and still is, made the greatest possible use of by being divided into small holdings and supporting as many persons as can reasonably be expected, and that the purpose of the tax has been attained in this case by the instructions of the deceased. Under instructions contained in his will, and on account of the beneficiaries in the next generation, the trustees are prevented from selling the property until all of the children are deceased. Otherwise they would be only too pleased to dispose of it at the present high values. If you agree with our contentions we shall be glad if you will endeavour to avoid an injustice being done to those we represent and others in a similar position.
Now, I am not personally acquainted with those who sent me this letter, though I know them by repute. They have had no communication with me except by this letter. I offer this as one example of what may happen under an indiscriminate measure like this, which has for its object a sinister design not indicated by the title, and wholly different from that which appears in the actual print. There may be a vice in landlordism, but if my honorable friends opposite say that’ this Bill is introduced to put down landlordism, I reply that that is not an object which it can accomplish. Furthermore, my honorable friends must know that it is just as economically beneficial to divide up large estates by leasing as by selling them.
Scotland. If you want lessons in Liberalism, where do you go? You go to Scotland, for the Scottish tenant farmers were Liberals, and their country was the stronghold of Liberalism in the days when Liberalism was seriously at a discount.
There are certain emergencies of nations in which expedients that in the ordinary state of things ought to be foreborne become essential to the public weal.
I think that is a very excellent statement, and it seems to me to apply to the present position. I know that the framers of the Convention never contemplated-
Australia I have known men who were ruined, and some who were nearly ruined, by being compelled to buy the land on which they were depasturing their sheep. I know men who incurred debts thirty odd years ago to the amount of hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to enable them to keep a house over their head and pasturage for their cattle and sheep. To introduce such a suggestion as theft in connexion with that is unworthy of my honorable friend.
– Order !
– As I want to get on, sir, I am very much obliged to you for cautioning or repressing’ the ebullitions of my honorable friend. He knows that I am perfectly good-natured, and in anything I have said I hope that I have not wounded any one’s feelings. I have expressed myself as plainly as 1 could. These texts which have been constantly given to me - these very suggestive and pregnant interruptions and the useful confessions which have been evoked - have led me to be a little longer than I originally intended. Would it not be very absurd to single out, for instance, horses or cattle for special taxation because you thought that a man had too many of them, or that the market price was too high? Logically, I think it would be just as reasonable to say, “If a man has more than 20, 000 sheep, or 500 horses, or 1,000 cattle, we shall tax him, and compel him to sell at once, because he might keep them in order to send up the price of stock, and so interfere with the food of the poor.
– That is what we propose to do with the income tax.
– I do not want to be led off again to the income tax.
– A limitation of area is not a novel proposition. In this State, for instance, we have had such a proposal by Conservative Governments.
– I am indebted to my honorable friend, Senator Russell, for making that remark, because it shows that the State Government are quite prepared to do their duty.
– A limitation of the number of sheep.
– A limitation of area is not a limitation of the number of sheep. I admit that it is rather unpleasant to analyze destructive propositions which are put forward, and that it is very unpleasant to their authors to listen to the analysis. Another point I would like honorable senators to consider is that this measure will be futile altogether to promote settlement or immigration. No honorable senator has explained how it will in any way do either of those tilings, because if there is a sale there are the price and the competition; the land is not going to be given away. On the other hand, you are not interfering in any way with the State-owned land. They are the greatest sinners. Amongst them they own tens of thousands - I was going to say millions - of acres. You are not bursting up the Crown lands, but leaving them all intact and exempt. You are leaving the States to do what South Australia is doing now;and that is, fixing the price of land by Boards, and so on, and selling it at, I think, unduly high prices indeed; and, although the terms are easy, the prices have to be paid. And when the day of difficulty comes we shall have the same thing as we have had in the past - appeals to Parliament to reduce the prices and give the lands at less figures.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it shows a want of business capacity for a man to give more than the fair value of land?
– I do.
– Then why do these men give more than a fair value to the Government?
– That is where the evil comes in. The competition, when good times prevail, is so great that men give a great deal more for land than they are justified in doing.
– That is an evil which this Bill is going to rectify. A private owner is able to get an extortionate amount for his land. Persons are compelled to pay’ whatever is demanded by owners.
– By “ private owner,” does the honorable. senator mean the owner of a big estate?
– The honorable senator says that persons in his State are giving exorbitant prices to the State Government, and I point out that throughout Australia men are giving exorbitant prices to land monopolists.
-But they will give the same exorbitant prices. What has happened up to now ? We know that estates have been sold lately. The most convincing proof we have that the object of this Bill is not taxation, but to burst up estates, is that there is an exemption introduced of all land which has been cut up since it was introduced and up to the 30th September. What can be more striking than that ?
– So as not to tax a man on land which he has sold.
–But you ought to extend it. You are giving that exemption because a man has complied with the intention of the measure and sold his land. However, the position which I finally put is that there is no occasion for this land taxation measure. The Commonwealth should keep as much as it requires from the revenue which exclusively belongs to it, and that is Customs and Excise revenue.
– We have tied that up for ten years.
– I dare say that if you were to appeal to the States, and propose to them that the Commonwealth should pay less than 25s. a head to the States, undertaking, at the same time, riot to interfere with it, or impose direct taxation during the same period, they would assent to it.
– But that would not give us a land tax.
– No; indeed, honorable senators opposite do not want a land tax ; this so-called land tax is only wanted for an indirect purpose. Revenue is not required, because you have £6,000,000 which you have agreed to distribute amongst the States at the rate of 25s. a head, and I am certain - at least, as certain as one can be - that they would be perfectly willing to revise that bargain, and consent to receive a less amount, if you would say, “ In consideration we agree to keep our hands off direct taxation.” That would save a great deal of trouble and complica tion. It would save the sense of injustice and oppression which, in- my opinion, will pass over the whole country when the Bill comes into operation. I do not believe that any State would be so foolish or mad as to refuse to consider a proposition of that kind. It cannot be believed that the States would prefer that the Commonwealth should step within their powers, and impose this land taxation, rather than that they should relinquish what the Commonwealth requires of the surplus which is being distributed among them.
– I am afraid that they will never get an option.
– I quite recognise that if my honorable friends have made up their minds, they have the numbers to carry the measure. I do not wish to controvert that at all, but I do put it forward as a proper course, and, if I may say so, as a statesmanlike and just way of dealing with this matter so far as it affects the finances of the country. As a revenueproducing measure, it is not wanted ; and as to its indirect object, I have sufficiently dealt with that. I am not going to express any opinion on the constitutional position of several matters which are raised in the Bill, because they can be very much better dealt with in Committee; but there are two clauses to which I wish to refer. One of them is the provision for the forfeiture of land as the penalty for undervaluation with intent to defraud, and the other is the provision for acquisition by the Commonwealth of land which has been undervalued, apparently without intent to defraud. I think that both these provisions will be found to be, if not ineffective, at any ‘ rate open to very -grave constitutional objections. In the first place, I do not think that the Commonwealth has any power to acquire land or to become a land speculator or land-owner, and that the only power it possesses, and necessarily possesses, under the Constitution is that of acquiring land for specific public purposes, except, of course, the land in the Federal Territory. My view of these two provisions, 1 repeat, is that they will be found to be open to very grave constitutional objections. The one as to acquiring land surely is an absurdity, taken in conjunction with . the latter one as to forfeiture. The forfeiture clause applies in the case of a person who makes an undervaluation with intent to defraud. He is to be subjected, as he ought to be, to a heavy penalty, and it is de clared that his land isto be forfeited to the Commonwealth. The other provision for the acquisition of land is where there may be a perfectly innocent undervaluation, but where; with a combination of “nots,” the Justice adjudicating is not satisfied that it was not for the purpose of evading the tax. The right of the Commonwealth to acquire the land does not depend upon the owner being found guilty of trying to evade the tax, but on the person to whom is committed the power of ordering the acquisition by the Commonwealth not being satisfied that it was not the intention of the owner in undervaluing his land to evade the tax.
– But does not the Bill provide for a very wide margin of valuation?
– It provides for a margin of 25 per cent. But as one who has had a good deal of experience during forty years of acting on behalf of people who have been landowners, I say that it is the most difficult thing in the world to put a value on land. If it were possible to suggest a more difficult thing, it would be to put on land its unimproved value. That is next to impossible. It is quite hard enough to impose upon a man the obligation to value his own land ; but it is still harder to oblige him to hand over his land to the Commonwealth for an innocent undervaluation if the person who under this Bill has the power to order the acquisition of the land by the Commonwealth is merely not satisfied that the land was not undervalued with a view to the evasion of the tax. Nothing could be more casuistical. It is a Jesuitical provision which should not appear in a measure of this kind. This is apart from the other matter I have offered for the consideration of honorable senators, that the Commonwealth is not in ‘a position to acquire land in this particular way.
– Yet the honorable senator stated only a little time ago that the Commonwealth has the power to enforce its laws by any means it thinks proper.-
– The Commonwealth can impose penalties. We might, as municipal bodies frequently do under their Statutes, order land to be sold, and the proceeds applied in the payment of taxation.
– And we have the right to fix penalties.
– There are very heavy penalties provided for in this Bill, and properly so, too.
-No one will dispute the contention that the penalties proposed in this Bill are heavy.
– The penalties for anything like fraud ought to be made heavy in every revenue measure, and they are enforceable. Fraud, particularly in connexion with the revenue, where the temptation to it is great, ought to be repressed with a heavy hand. But that does not necessitate such a topsy-turvy provision as that proposed in this Bill to make the Commonwealth a land-owner. The Commonwealth might be placed in a very serious position. It might become possessed of half the lands alienated in the different States under the provision to which I have referred. I do not put it on the ground suggested by Senator St. Ledger last night. I . think the Commonwealth has power by legislation to declare forfeiture in regard to land as well as in regard to goods ; but it should be forfeiture carried out in the same way. The Commonwealth should not become possessed . of these lands, but they should be sold and dealt with as Customs goods are dealt with and sold under the Customs Act. There is one other clause to which I should like to refer, and that is a clause which is absolutely unique, I think, in any taxation legislation. I am certainly not going to move to strike it out, because any mitigation of the effects of this measure must be welcomed. I refer to clause 64. It was referred to yesterday in a most triumphant way by some of my honorable friends opposite, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council said, “ You surely do not mean to strike that out.” It provides that -
In any case, when it is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that a taxpayer liable to pay land tax has become bankrupt or insolvent, or has suffered such a loss -
Not that the tax is too heavy; it is some other loss that is referred to - that the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship, a Board, consisting of the Commissioner, the Secretary to the Treasurer, and the Comptroller-General of Customs may release such taxpayer wholly or in part from his liability.
I declare that the presence of that clause in this Bill stamps this system or scheme of taxation as absolutely and utterly unjust. Why, this is a confession of injustice and of hardship. It is a confession that this system not merely may, but will; produce oppression; and it creates a Board consisting of three Government officials to investigate the oppression and relieve a man from what ought to be the just taxation that bears upon him. I have said that this provision is unique. Its presence here condemns the whole scheme, in my opinion. It will not be rejected by any vote of mine, because it represents a means of some escape from the monstrous misery which may be inflicted under this Bill.
– Should we not temper justice with mercy?
– This is not a proposal to temper justice with mercy, but to remove some of the injustice which the Bill creates. The Government first create the injustice and then say, “ We shall be merciful in some cases.” This is not what I think Shakespeare meant when he said, “ The quality of mercy is not strained.”
– The operation of the clause may give rise to grave suspicion some time or other.
– That was the second thing I intended to say about it.
– Suppose that there are a couple of dry seasons following each other in country like the Mallee, does the honorable senator not think that owners of land in such districts should be entitled to some consideration?
– Hold your tongue, or the honorable senator will never stop.
– Senator McDougall is convinced, and does not desire to hear any more ; but my honorable friend, Senator E. J. Russell, is still in the doubting stage.
– I hope the honorable senator does not mistake my motive.
– Not at all. The honorable senator’s motive is that of a seeker after truth, and I may’ tell him that this provision is not intended for the purpose which he suggests. It is not a provision for relief where the tax is found to be too heavy, or anything of that kind. But if the owner of land suffers some other loss, apart from any question of taxation, he is under this clause to be relieved from his contribution to the revenue of the country. I say. that no man ought to be relieved from his fair and just contribution to the revenue of the country. If he is unable to pay his debts and must become insolvent, there are other laws established under which he can seek relief, although even then so stern is the obligation of public necessity that these laws do not, in the present state of the prerogative, relieve a man of his debts to the Crown.
– One absurdity of the clause is that, if a man is declared a bankrupt, the land will pass to some one. else, and it is the land that will be relieved of the tax, and not the bankrupt original holder.
– The clause might be looked at in many ways, but I consider it as condemning the system of which it is made to form a part. While it. condemns the system, it is at least a mitigation of it ; and I, for one, would not be found seeking to excise it.
– If the principle of the . clause is bad, why keep it in the Bill ?
– I have told my honorable friend the reason. I regard it as a mitigation, and any mitigation from our friends opposite is like sunshine on a gloomy morning.
– Why does the honorable senator propose to support what he says is a bad clause?
– I say that it is bad, but I prefer that it should remain in the Bill as a condemnation on the face of it of a bad system. It is a placard on the face of this Bill that the measure which my honorable friends propose to enact may be a fertile cause of injustice. I do not wish to say any more. As Senator McDougall is convinced, and Senator E. J. Russell has apparently no more questions to ask, I have now only to thank honorable senators, as I do most sincerely, for listening to the views I have endeavoured to put before them in regard to this Bill from a number of different aspects. I assure them that I have not submitted these views with any idea of coercing their minds or of being unduly controversial ; but to put forward matters which give me concern, and which I think may fairly receive some’ consideration from them. If they pass the Bill, and the omens point that way, I think I may be allowed to say that they will live to regret it. I believe that if this measure is put upon the statute-book it will be accompanied, when it comes into operation, hy the cries of the oppressed ; and if instances occur such as that to which- I referred in opening my remarks with the tears of the destitute and of children left unprovided for. And if it continues to be law, it will, in the future, be followed by the execration of all honest men and thinking people amongst us.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
. -Senator Sir Josiah Symon, who addressed the Senate upon this very important Bill this morning, mentioned what appears to him to be a fact - otherwise, I suppose, he would not have mentioned it - namely, that honorable senators, upon this side of the Chamber, are deaf to all argument, dead to all reason- that they are practically a stonewall - and that, therefore, it is idle to attempt to reason with them. This gibe comes well from Senator Symon, who is always either perched upon the lofty heights of intellectual superiority, or lost in the imperial vaults of legal lore. But I would remind honorable senators that he rarely remains to listen to any discussion upon a measure. He merely comes here to deliver his obiter dictum without considering what arguments, pro and con, may be adduced upon a measure. In these circumstances, a sneer emanating from him ought properly to be resented. But while the honorable senator treated us this morning to an exhibition of forensic eloquence, while he talked at large and gave us an array of platitudes, he did not offer a single argument against the Bill. Indeed, he frankly admitted that he was not attempting to argue upon it. The public will, therefore, be able to judge of the value of the assumed superiority of this very superior gentleman who took occasion to sneer at one honorable senator upon this side of the Chamber for attempting to lecture the Senate, while he, himself, was engaged in lecturing it. But I do not intend to say any more under this heading. I propose to confine my remarks on the Bill strictly to the principles which are embodied in it. I do not intend to weary honorable senators with statistics, of which they have already had a surfeit. Nor do I propose to debate its details, because 1 realize that they can be much better discussed in Committee. But I do wish to offer some observations on the principles which are at the root of the measure. First, I say that this is a taxation measure, pure and simple. It is a Bill for the purpose of raising revenue for the King’s Government in the Commonwealth. That it is essential that we should look to this means of raising revenue is evidenced by the large commitments to which the Commonwealth is already pledged. ‘ It is well known that, in the near future, we shall be faced with a defence expenditure upon land and sea of at least £3,000,000 per annum in excess of our previous expenditure under that heading. This additional sum must be made up somehow. After we have returned to the States the 25s. per capita annually, to which we are committed for a period of ten years, pur Customs and Excise revenue will be wholly inadequate to meet our growing obligations. We are also confronted with a heavy expenditure upon the Northern Territory, and upon the constr uction of a transcontinental railway. We have further to face numerous obligations in other directions. As our functions are extended year by year, so our expenditure must increase. It is patent, therefore, that in the. future the revenue, which we have hitherto derived from Customs and Excise, will not be nearly sufficient to meet our expenditure. How, then, can we make ends meet unless we look round for new sources of revenue? I repeat that it is essential that we should tap new sources of revenue, owing to the growing necessities of the Commonwealth. That being so, no Government could turn to any more legitimate source of taxation for the purpose of raising the required revenue than to the privately-held lands of Australia. I think I shall be able to conclusively prove that in a very few words. Senator Symon stated that he approved of the principle of a land tax. I notice that some honorable senators are in favour of every proposal under Heaven, but immediately any proposal is brought forward, it is either presented in a wrong way, or the time for its submission is not opportune. That is not the sort of approval which I extend to any measure. I say that if it be right to do a certain thing, it is right to do it at any time. Senator Symon also stated that this method of taxation ought not to be resorted to unless in conjunction with income taxation. He conveniently forgot that landed property is in an entirely different category from any other form of property. The return from investments in it is entirely different from the return from investments of- any other character.
-Colonel Cameron. - They are harder to get.
– ‘A man may be the most useless waster in Australia, and yet become extremely wealthy by investment in land, whereas that cannot happen in connexion with any other form of investment. For example, in the early days a man purchased a piece of land in Sydney tor £12 or £15. The laws of the State were pretty harsh at the time, and he, unfortunately, ran foul of the law and was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. When he was liberated-, the land which he had purchased for £12 or £15 was worth £20,000. Was that because he was a good citizen, becauseof his energy, enterprise, or industry? No. He became wealthy in spite of himself, simply because of the efforts of the community, because of the industry and energy of the people as a whole. The same- thing may happen any day in the week to anybody. A man may buy a piece of land without ever having seen it. ‘ He may go away and absolutely forget all about it, and he may return to find that his wealth has been materially increased by reason of its possession. Thus, when we tax the unearned increment, we do not take from the land-owners something which they have created. We merely take back a small portion of the value which the community has created. That argument cannot be controverted. In Australia the increment of value in land during the last century has been enormous. Of course, as Senator Symon has contended, there has occasionally been a decrement. But it is never safe to generalize from the experience of individual cases. It is an undoubted fact that the lands of Australia, as a whole, have enormously increased in value during the past century. They have done so during the past twenty years ; nay, even within the past ten years.
– There is land in Brisbane to-day which can be purchased more cheaply than it could be twenty-five years ago.
– I do not believe It.
– I can mention the’ case if the honorable senator desiresme to do so.
– I have already said that there is no greater fallacy in logic than to attempt to generalize fromthe experience of individual cases. Upon the whole, as the municipal valuations will show, the lands of Brisbane to-day are worth much more than they were worth twenty-five years ago. I admit that there may be individual cases in which the reverse is true, but Coghlan - and every other statistical authority - shows that, in the aggregate, the lands of Australia have enormously increased in value. Who created that en hanced value? Was it the individuals who owned the land? A great many of those who own land in Australia have never seen it. They do absolutely nothing to help the country, except draw dividends from it.
– Or to defend it.
– They do absolutely nothing to help the country or to defend it. But I shall deal with thedefence aspect of the question later on. At present, I wish to develop my argument in my own way. Seeing that we are compelled to look around us for other sources of taxation, is it not fair that we should look to this large increment of value which has been created by the public, and that we should demand that it should contribute its fair share towards the government of the country? There is another point which should never be forgotten, and which cannot be emphasized too often, namely, that a large portion of the. added value of these lands is directly due to Government enterprise. When I say “ Government enterprise,” I mean the enterprise of the people themselves, because, in Australia, under our Democratic system, the Government are the people. We have borrowed and expended £250,000,000 on the public account. That money was borrowed on the credit of the whole people. It has been expended in building railways, in making roads and bridges, in deepeningharbors, and in various other public utilities, and its expenditure has added enormouslyto the value of the lands of Australia. That being so, is it not fair that these people who have derived such a large portion of the added value from State enterprises of that sort, should be asked to contribute a certain portion of that value towards the cost of government in a country which has done so much for them? I do not think that that proposition can be successfullycontroverted. But if Senator Symon had his way, he would make everybody, no matter whether his income were derived from his own exertion, or he owed his wealth to the enterprise of the community, pay exactly the same. The position will not, I think, bear analysis for a single moment. In the one case a man has launched out, spent his own money, engaged in enterprises of various sorts, and been a good citizen in every sense of the term. Yet Senator Symon would penalize that man to the same extent as a man who had never done a single thing for the community, although he had derived enormous advantage from
Government expenditure. There is absolutely no fairness or logic in an argument of that sort. There is another point which I should like to bring under the notice of the Senate. When a man invests his money, and devotes his labour, whether mental or physical, to any enterprise; when he is continually compelled to think about the success of that enterprise ; when he is constantly bent on devoting his mental and physical energy to the promotion of it, and to bringing it to a successful issue, thinking about it day and night, and being often, perhaps, worn out by his anxiety to achieve his purpose, Senator Symon would treat him exactly the same as he would treat the land-loafer who never does a single useful thing. What justification is there for that policy? The man of enterprise not only labours for his own benefit, but his energy is of great advantage to the State. He finds employment for workmen, and indirectly does, perhaps, a hundred other good things. But what good thing is done by the landowner? Absolutely none. All he does is to collect his rents, squeezing the last farthing out of the unfortunate tenant farmer. In addition to the facts regarding the land-owner that I have pointed out, it should be remembered that, instead of helping along the wealth production of Australia - instead of helping to make people more prosperous and successful; instead of helping to support additional families - he often stands in the way of those who are trying to do these things. I am not now, of course, referring to the man who farms his own land. Such people are amongst the best and the most productive citizens Australia contains. I am alluding to the man who holds land in large areas, perhaps for speculative purposes, lt is all nonsense to say that these men as citizens are equally as good as those who by their enterprise, industry, and ability have built up businesses, and by their own exertions are able ultimately to enjoy large incomes. The two classes of men are not on the same plane, and it would be absolutely unfair and unjust to treat them as though they were. There are, I think, two principles which should be regarded as main guides to a proper system of taxation. Those two principles,, are, first, that the citizen should be compelled to contribute to the service of the State in proportion to his ability to do so; and, secondly, that he should be compelled to contribute in proportion to the advantage he derives from the State.
I do not think that anybody who has given consideration to the subject would take exception to those two main principles. There is no earthly reason - and for the matter of that there is no heavenly reason either - why the man who derives such enormous advantages from land ownership without any compensating exertion on his part should not be compelled to contribute the lion’s share of the taxation from the payment of which hitherto he has been able to escape scot-free. The principle that has governed almost all taxation In this and in nearly every other country has been to tax the poor man by means of indirect taxation - to tax the man of energy and enterprise, and to allow The large landlords to go free. Why has that been the main principle of taxation in former days? Why was the landlord allowed to escape whilst the poor man had to pay out of all proportion to his means, and to the benefit he derived? The reason was, because in all the States of Australia the landlords have had a house of legislation of their own. No legislation could be passed without their consent, and they took care to protect themselves to the full. Who gets into the Upper House in Victoria? No one can get there except he is a land-owner. In every other State in which there is an elected Upper House the same principle applies. In the States in which there are nominee Upper Houses, who gets into them? The big, wealthy land-owner. He is the man who, to use a colloquial phrase, is top dog there. Being top dog he does what top dogs nearly always do - protect themselves, and secure the lion’s share of whatever good things are going. We have had to endure class taxation for very many years in Australia, but now, because we want to equalize matters, and deal fairly between all sections of the community, our opponents have the coolness to come here, and mouth and prate about the class legislation which we are imposing. There is no escape from that position. If we turn to the history of the old feudal times in England - and to the history of times not so very long ago, either - we find that the lands of England bore the whole burden of taxation, not only for defence, but for all other purposes as well. The lands were held by the barons and other landowners, on the specific condition that each land-owner should maintain so many men at arms for the service of the Crown and the defence of the realm. The land-owner
– That is the Protectionist policy.
– It is nothing of the sort. The Protectionist believes in imposing a tax for the purpose of encouraging the manufacture of goods in the country, and he believes in the tax imposed at the Customs House being sufficiently effective to cause manufactures to spring up in the country.
– Then prices go up.
– The honorable senator did not talk in that way when we were dealing with the Sugar Bounty Bill the other day. As soon as we produce sufficient of an article in the country to supply the consumers, the competition keeps down prices. As I have pointed out, it was only in comparatively recent times that indirect taxation as a means of
– Is there no income tax in Australia?
– Very little, and it has been imposed only comparatively recently.
– I pay a fair amount.
– I should be as glad to pay as much as the honorable senator does if I were as wealthy as he is. I am not talking of the amount paid, however, but of the justice or injustice of the method of taxation. It cannot be denied that the major portion of the value of the land of a country is derived from the community.
– Values in other directions are also created by the community.
– Those of us who support this Bill maintain that that communitycreated wealth should be applied to the service of the community by contributions to the revenue.
– The community has a right to the whole of it.
– As a matter of equity, the community would have a right to the whole. Senator Symon stressed the point very much, that there was no justification for a tax which differentiates; that a tax to be just and equitable must be equal all round in its application. A dictum of that kind will not bear examination for a moment. What have we adopted in our Defence Acts? Do we exact the same service from the old and weak, and the youths who are too young to be capable as we do from the young and strong and physically capable? Nothing of the kind. We make our first call on men between the ages of 20 and 35. We call upon the strong to bear their share of the load before we call upon the weak. But if Senator Symon had his way he would ask that tottering old men and weakling youths should bear the heavy end of the stick while the big fat land-holder would get off scot-free.
– He could not do that, he would burst.
– Many of the poor taxpayers of Australia have burst long ago because of the unjust weight of taxation placed upon them. The whole principle running through the Defence Acts is that we call first on the young, strong, and vigorous for service, and only in the last extremity do we call upon the old and weak.
-Colonel Cameron. - The game is up then.
– No. A country which never knows when it is. beaten is generally sure to come out conqueror in the end. The countries which are the freest and most independent to-day are those which never knew they were beaten, but which always strove to the very last.
-Colonel Cameron. - The old and the weak never saved them.
– According to that argument, the honorable senator would want the old and the weak to pay taxes, and allow the young and vigorous to go free. If he will follow the analogy a little further, I shall agree with him that the old and the weak cannot be expected to save the young and vigorous from taxation. Senator Symon would have us believe that the only equitable or just way would be to expect everybody to contribute alike in proportion to the value of his land and income. One of the principles of taxation which I lay down for myself in discussing this question is that a man should contribute in proportion to his capacity to the revenue of the country. But how would Senator Symon’s argument bear examination in the light of that rule, which, I think, is generally admitted as a good guide to the proper principle on which taxation should be conducted? Let me point out what it would mean. Suppose that forty men are sitting down to dinner, and that on one side of the table a man has twenty portions before him, that is sufficient for twenty dinners, and on the apposite side a man has only enough for half a dinner. Suppose that you said to the latter, “ I will take one-half of your portion, and leave you with only a quarter of a dinner,” and to the other man, “ I will take a quarter from you, too, leaving you with nineteen and three-quarter portions.” Would there be any fairness or equity or justice about that? What we should do is to see that everybody contributes in proportion to his capacity to do so. To the Customs revenue a man earning £2 a week has to contribute on an average, if he has a wife and family of four children, about £15 per annum. In other words, it takes him over seven weeks to earn his contribution to the Government. How many weeks would it take a man who is deriving an income of £1,000 a year from land, and who may be an absentee? Not a single day. A poor working man earning £2a week has to contribute seven weeks to the service of his country, while an absentee land-holder receiving annually £1,000 or £2,000, or, for that matter, £10,000, would not contribute a single day’s income to the country from which he derives his wealth. There can be no fairness, no justice, and no equity about such’ a system of taxation’ as that. Therefore, I maintain that the graduated scheme of taxation provided for in the measures before the Senate is perfectly justified from the revenue point of view. We want to compel the citizens of Australia to contribute to the Government in proportion to their ability to do so, and undoubtedly a man who owns £150,000 worth of land, unimproved value, is in a much better position to contribute to the revenue than is a man who owns only £6, 000 worth of land. After all is said and done, the taxation which is proposed in this measure is comparatively light. How much will be paid by an ordinary individual who owns, say, land which is worth . £35,000, unimproved value, but which is a very fair-sized estate? We have been almost talked to death with cries about confiscation. How much does this confiscation amount to? A man with £35,000 worth of land, unimproved value, will get an exemption of £5,000, and on the taxable value of £30,000 he will have to pay an average of 2d. in the £1, or a total of £250 a year. That is a very light tax, and the landlords ought to be extremely grateful to this party for letting them off so lightly. We have been told that a tax of 6d. in the £1 will confiscate 50 per cent. I admit that it will mean the confiscation of 50 per cent.’ of the capital value. But when will it occur? The average of 6d. in the £1 will not occur until a man has £150,000 worth of land, unimproved value. I am only citing a few instances to show that the tax is not nearly so heavy as has been represented.
– Is the honorable senator quite correct there?
– Is it not £80,000?
– No; I said the average. A man will need to have £90,000 worth of taxable value before he will pay 4d. in the £1.
-Colonel Cameron. - £80,000 ?
– No, £90,000.
-Colonel Cameron. - He will be taxed on £75,000.
– I am talking about the average. He will only pay 6d. in the £1 on what he holds over £75,000; that is, on the excess.
-Colonel Cameron. - That is right.
– These figures are absolutely correct, because I took some trouble to find out exactly what the tax meant, and I am only quoting a few cases. A man who owns £35,000 worth of land, unimproved value, will get an exemption of £5,000, so that his taxable value will be £30,000. How is the tax to be arrived at ? If you divide the value of the land in pounds sterling by 30,000 and ridd id., you get the rate of tax per £1 in pence. In other words, by dividing £30,000 by 30,000 and adding id., you get 2d. The tax will only amount to ah average of 4CI, in the £1 when a man has ^95,000 worth of land, unimproved value, and it will only amount to an average of 6d. in the £r when a man has £150,000 worth of land, unimproved value.
– How can it ever reach an average of 6d. ?
– It will never reach that amount except within a small fraction. That is a mathematical problem. But it is quite near enough for all practical purposes. It will be easier for a man to pay the full amount of the average than to look around for the infinitesimal fraction which he could never find. I think it will be seen from an examination of the typical cases I have cited that the tax is in no sense a heavy or confiscatory one. As a matter of fact, there is no more confiscation about this tax than there is about any other form of taxation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Would a tax of is. in the ,£i have been confiscatory ?
– If it averaged is. all round it would take the whole of the capital value.
– Then a tax of 6d. in the £1 takes one-half of the capital value?
– Yes ; but it will only be applied when a man has £150,000 worth of land, unimproved value. As a matter of absolute equity the community, having created the whole of the value, is entitled to it all.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -No.
– It is the landowner himself who has grabbed the whole of the community-created value and alpplied it to his own purposes year after year.- It is he who has been the great cotifiscator all the time.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why do you not work on that principle?
– By-and-by I hope to see this matter dealt with according to absolute equity.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -No matter what a man may have paid for his property he is to lose that?
– We have nothing to do with that. This principle is applied in Customs taxation, which the honorable senator favours. We never bother whether a man loses or gains money on the goods which he imports, or as to who owns them. We do not care a straw how many partners are in the business or how many intermediaries there are. We say, “ Here are certain goods which must pay the duties no matter what happens, and nobody can get possession of them until that is done.” It would be a very good thing to apply exactly the same principle to the land. A land-owner can escape the major portion of this tax if he pleases, because he can subdivide his holding and sell until he brings it within such dimensions as will bc profitable for him to hold. Of course, Senator Symon said that sellers could not find buyers. What about the enormous land hunger we have in Australia every year? Only the other day we read of 450 applicants for six blocks of land in Wagga.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - All bond fide?
– I dare say.
– Admitting that they were bond fide, the honorable senator must recognise that the real cause of that rush is that land is being offered at about half its value.
– I know that on the south coast of New South Wales about twelve months ago there were about 1,100 applicants for three blocks of about third class land.
– For. the same reason.
– The same thing happens in Queensland ; indeed, all over Australia there is intense land hunger.
– The moment a man has acquired one of these blocks he can sell it at a big premium.
– Why? Because land is so scarce artificially that men cannot get it without paying an exorbitant price. In a country which is teeming with millions of acres of good land that is a cruel thing.
– And with nobody living on it.
– Mostly. You can travel by the railway from Melbourne to Albury, and for mile after mile see good land without a single person living on it. Yet we are told that there is plenty of land out in the dry Mallee or away in the Never Never country. That is where the men who are always mouthing their sympathy with poor men want to drive the settlers.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is there not plenty of good Crown land ?
– There is good land in Queensland. I am glad of the interjection, because I wish to show that in spite of our millions of acres of good land, our 660,000 odd square miles, absentee landlordism is rampant in that State. Men talk of Queensland as if it had unlimited areas of land available for settlement. But it is very hard to get a decent farm in the State which is accessible to a market, and in such a position that a man can go and make a living on it. I can prove that.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Out of a Government publication?
– I have a Government publication here, to which I would direct the attention of honorable senators. This is a report upon the central sugar mills of Queensland presented to both Houses of the State Parliament by command, and issued on the authority of the Treasurer of Queensland. It is dated Brisbane, 12th October, 1909, or just a year ago. In the references in the report to the Nerang central mill, I find the following paragraph -
The Treasurer, with his Under Secretary, visited the mill on the 15th May, when Mr. Appel, the member for the district, introduced a deputation of farmers representing the various leaseholders of absentee landlords. After listening to their views, the Treasurer promised that no time would be lost in placing terms before the landlords and tenants which he hoped would be satisfactory to all concerned, and thus place the business of the mill on a sound footing.
This shows that the business of the mill was not on a sound footing, because of the rapacious demands of absentee landlords. They had to be dealt with before the busi- ness of a central mill put up with Government money could be carried on successfully. I say that it is a monstrous thing that in a young country like Queensland absentee landlordism should be so rampant that it is considered necessary to direct attention to it in an official report by a Conservative State Government. I could quote innumerable instances of the kind, and let me say that in Queensland as well as in the other States we have in operation the infamous system of tenancy on shares. I say without a moment’s hesitation that no system of landlordism in the world is so abhorrent to me, and so pernicious in its effects. In view of all these facts, and the enormous advantages which the owner of land derives from State enterprise -
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And from his own.
– In some cases, and to some extent, I admit ; but I quoted a Sydney case for the honorable senator of a man who derived an enormous advantage from the ownership of land, but who had spent twenty years of his time in gaol. How much did that man’s enterprise add to the value of the land?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is an isolated instance.
– Was he not working for the Government all the time?
– Every one knows that if a man bought £100 worth of land in Melbourne sixty years ago, and then went to the uttermost parts of the earth, and did nothing to contribute to the increase in its value, he might come back to Melbourne, and find himself a wealthy man through the mere possession of the land.
– It would have been sold to recover taxes.
– It could not be sold to recover taxes. Even local rates in Victoria are levied on improvements, and not on the land.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is that the kind of land the honorable senator wishes to burst up?
-I have not come to the bursting up part of the business yet. I am dealing with the equity of raising revenue in this way.
– Equity ?
– The honorable senator was not here when I began my address, and I do not intend to go over it again for his benefit. So far, I have been dealing with the absolute equity of this method of raising revenue, and that it is necessary for us to raise revenue no one will deny. We are compelled by the undertakings to which we are already committed, including the necessity of putting our defence in a state of efficiency, to raise revenue in some way.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Not so much.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for saying that? If this land tax were to bring in £3,000,000 instead of the £1,000,000 which the Treasurer expects to receive from it, the Commonwealth Government could find a good use for it without exceeding Federal functions.
– What does the honorable senator think the tax will bring in?
– I frankly confess that I do not know. I do not believe that any honorable senator can tell exactly what revenue will be derived from the tax, but we should be safe in accepting the estimate of responsible Treasury officials.
– Does the honorable senator think that 10 per cent. of the people should pay the whole of this taxation.
– This Bill does not propose to tax anybody. It proposes the imposition of a tax upon land. This is not a tax on the owner of land any more than a Customs duty is a tax on the man who imports goods liable to taxation.
– Then the income tax is levied on the income, and not on the man who pays it?
– An income tax is levied on the man who pays it, but this is not an income tax; it is a tax upon land values. If I import a ton of salt, I have topay £1 before I can get possession of it, but the tax is not upon me, it is upon the salt.
– Who pays it, the honorable senator or the salt?
– I have referred to the absolute equity of this taxation. If we consider it from the point of view of the advantage derived by the person owning the land that is taxed from the enterprise, energy, and expenditure of the State, it is fully justified. If we consider it on the ground of capacity to pay, the graduation proposed effects that purpose. It was not necessary to have a bursting up proposal in order to justify the graduation at all. It is justified by the principle of taxation that a man should be compelled to contribute in proportion to his capacity to do so.
– The Government do not follow that principle.
– They arefollowing it. Honorable senators opposite think to put principles and ideas into our mouths. They would tie us down to their ideas, and would not permit us to have independent ideas of our own.
– I do not think the honorable senator should accuse the Opposition of the folly of attempting to tie him to anything.
– I accuse them of attempting to mislead people into believing that this method of taxation is resorted to not for the reasons we advance, but for the reasons they advance. I say that we are the best judges, and the most authoritative exponents of the reasons by which we are animated in doing anything.
– If a man does a wrong, surely the honorable senator would not accept his reason for doing it.
– So far from doing a wrong in this matter, we claim to be doing an act of tardy justice too long delayed.
– Bill Sykes had the same idea.
– The honorable senator is doubtless quite at home in quoting the authority of his pal, Bill Sykes, but why he should try to force the company of Bill Sykes on to me, and on to other honorable senators on this side, is something that I cannot understand. So far, I have confined myself to the revenue aspect of the Bill, and the equity of the proposed method of raising revenue. I am satisfied that what I have said cannot be successfully controverted. There is one other thing which I should like to say with regard to the equity of this tax. The major portion of the increase in our expenditure, which we may expect in years tocome will be necessary in order that we may keep up an efficient defence, and I ask who is the man who ought to pay for the defence of the country ?
– I deny that. I say that every one ought not to pay for it. I am one of those who believe that every man in Australia has a country worth fighting for, and should fight for it, if necessary.
I have no sympathy whatever with those who believe that the working man has nothing to fight for in Australia. I say that he has a great deal to fight for. We possess the freest Constitution in the world, affording to every citizen of the Commonwealth the amplest opportunities. What would become of our Democratic legislation, our adult franchise, our White Australia policy, our system of old-age pensions, and the thousand and one other Democratic measures we have, put upon the statute-book if we were a conquered nation? They would all disappear in a night. In view of the splendid results achieved by the Democracy in Australia, I contend that every working man in this country has a great deal to fight for, and I believe that if ever the time comes when it is necessary to put up a fight, the working men of Australia will put up such a fight as will astonish the world. But I go further, and I say that when the working man who has nothing but his brains and his muscles to support him, gives his time to training for the defence of his country, and in the hour of danger takes his life in his hands, and is prepared to sacrifice it in the country’s defence, he does all that ought to be demanded of him. It is not too much to expect that the landlord should sacrifice a small portion of his wealth for the same purpose.
– He must go out to fight, too.
– Very often he is an absentee, and whether he is or not, he has very much more than his life, brains, and muscle to fight for.
– Without his life, the rest would be of very little use to him.
– The honorable senator would not care to have to lose all his wealth when he lost his life. If wealthy people had to disgorge all their “wealth when they died, there would be no necessity for this Bill. The case of hardship cited by Senator Symon was a case in which a man had tied up his property by will forty-three years ago, for the benefit of his grandchildren. Those who own land in this country may well be asked to contribute from their wealth for its defence. The working man who gives his time and his life, has nothing else to give, but the i wealthy man howls when he is asked to make a contribution towards defence.
– The honorable senator is contending that wealth ought to contri bute to defence, but this Bill does not provide for that. It deals with only one form of wealth.
– I pointed out before that the principle stated in so many words in our Defence Act is that for the defence of the country, we first call upon the young and vigorous. It is only in the last extremity that we call upon the old and weak.
– Are our wealthy shipowners young?
– We are calling upon them to contribute in proportion to their wealth. The land-owner who is doing nothing to add to the value of his land is deriving an enormous advantage from our ship-owners, and from the energy and enterprise of the whole people.
– Therefore, the honorable senator thinks that we ought to tax land, but not wealth, for defence purposes ?
– The possession of land and wealth by a country is the only consideration which ever leads to war. If Australia were a poverty-stricken country, nobody would dream of attacking it. Wars are undertaken for the sake of plunder. Nations go to war because of what they will gain from a victory. As we owe our liability to attack to the possession of enormous wealth, I say that that wealth ought to contribute the lion’s share of the cost of defending it.
– Why not make all wealth contribute to that cost?
– Before I go home this evening I must walk to Flinders-street Railway Station. I must catch a train there. That is my answer to Senator Millen. We can do only one thing at a time. I hope that when he again occupies a seat on the Ministerial bench the microbe of which he spoke so eloquently some time ago will infect him, and induce him to tax other forms of wealth than that of land. We propose to tax land because we think it is the first form of wealth with which we ought to deal. While on the “ subject of defence, it is well for us to ask ourselves, “ What is the first necessity for the defence of this country? “ Obviously, it is more population. Instead of having a paltry 4,500,000 souls in it; I look forward to the time when Australia will have a population of 40,000,000 - a population which she can well afford to carry prosperously. But she- will never carry that population while the landlord is allowed to “ shoo “ people off the land. What is the position in Victoria? For a number of years the population of this State was actually less at the end of a ten-years’ period than it was at the beginning. As a matter of fact, Victoria is losing population every year. Although her population does not actually become smaller, she is not maintaining an increase in proportion to her birth rate. When I say “ birth rate,” I mean the effective birth rate. There are more persons leaving Victoria every year than there are entering it. Here is & young country, blessed with a splendid soil and great resources, and yet it carries only a paltry population of 1,250,000. The young men have to leave it because they cannot get upon its lands. So that its population is largely composed of old men, old women, and children. Upon the electoral rolls of Victoria there are the names of II,000 more women than there are of men. In the Kooyong electorate, which was so long represented by that fine old Tory, Mr. Knox, 6,000 more women than men were on the rolls at the recent election. How is it possible for these poor women ever to get husbands and to become the mothers of good families? The landlord is for ever standing in the road “ shooing “ the people off the earth. These are facts which honorable senators opposite cannot dispute. They can verify my statement by reference to the Kooyong electoral roll.
– The honorable senator knows the explanation of the preponderance of women votes in that electorate.
– What is the explanation? The honorable senator is alluding to the fact that in the Kooyong electorate there is a considerable number of rich land-holders who maintain large staffs of female servants.
– That explains the discrepancy between the male and female voters in that, electorate.
– What explains that discrepancy in Victoria?
– The fact that other States have cheaper land to offer than has Victoria. If we were to cut down the land values of Australia 50 per cent., the same thing would continue.
– No. What has happened in Tasmania, the garden of Australia, which has a climate which should be eminently suited to our race - a climate a little more genial than is that of England? The whole of that State has a population only a little in excess of that of an English village. Its total population is 183,000. Senator Ready quoted a case the other evening in which only one family is now settled upon an estate worth £140,000 which was formerly occupied by forty families. In the same way, the young men have been driven out of Victoria by the artificial scarcity of land, and they have been obliged to seek land elsewhere. If we allow the aggregation of large estates to continue, similar conditions will obtain throughout Australia in the future.
– Where do the Victorians go to seek land ?
– Chiefly to the other States. I was driven out of the Old Country by the blighting curse of landlordism, and never, while I have breath, will I permit - if it be in my power to prevent it - the perpetuation of that curse in Australia. How are we going to defend this country if the landlord is to be allowed to “shoo” the people off the earth? And, if we cannot settle it, the result must be disastrous. By-and-by, when the enemy is at our gates, unless existing conditions are altered, the landlord will be brought face to face with the execration of the whole people. The conqueror will have no respect for his title deeds. The foreign conqueror will be his landlord.
– The difference between the honorable senator and the foreign conqueror is that the honorable senator would take half of the land-owner’s possessions, whereas the foreigner would take the lot.
– I do not wish to take a farthing from him, nor do I ask Senator Millen to take a farthing. What I say is that it is only fair that those who derive such enormous advantages from the enterprise of the community, and from the spending of money by the Government, should contribute, at least,, a small share of the unearned increment.
– If the Bill adhered to that principle, I should respect it-
– That is the principle which permeates it. Unless we can settle people on the lands of Australia, we shall never have a large population here. Take the case of South Australia, where a condition of affairs prevails which is unparalleled in any portion of the world, with the exception of Monaco, where the town of Monte Carlo comprises the whole State. No less than six-sevenths of the entire population of South Australia is con- gregated in Adelaide. The State must be absolutely empty.
– Adelaide is such a pleasant place in which to live.
– The same condition, though not to such an exaggerated degree, exists in the other States.
– There cannot be sixsevenths of the population of South Australia settled in Adelaide alone.
– I say that there is, and I have obtained the information from official sources.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong.
– What is the population of South Australia?
– About 420,000.
– The population of Adelaide represents 44½ per cent. of the entire population of South Australia.
– That is not sixsevenths of the population of that State.
– I should have said three-sevenths. It was merely a slip of the tongue, and a little verbal error of that sort does not vitiate the force of my argument. I say that there is far too large a proportion of the population of Australia settled in its big towns. It is essential that some means should be devised to promote settlement in the country. We can never secure a large population unless we make it fairly easy for persons to obtain land. One of the effects of this Bill will be to permit of that being done. To-day, the price of land in Australia is far too high. Only a bare living can be made out of it at the prices which are being charged for it. Most persons, therefore, who go upon the land have to begin their careers with a millstone of debt round their necks. If they experience good seasons they may pull through, but if they experience bad seasons they must inevitably go down. In the latter case, their holdings eventually go towards the aggregation, once more, of large estates. 1 say that that is an absolutely rotten way to do the thing. It fails in what it pretends to do. The experiment has been tried in Queensland, and in the other States, and while, perhaps, results have been achieved which were better than the former system, nevertheless, it has absolutely failed to accomplish what was intended. At the same time, it has laid an added burden on the men who have settled on these big estates in Queensland. The Governments of the State have spent very large sums of money in purchasing large estates, and have obtained parliamentary sanction to spend £500,000 per annum in pursuance of the same policy. But what has happened has been similar to what occurred at Cohuna, in this State, as revealed by the inquiry that is now in progress. Directly the Government goes into a district to buy an estate, the price of land jumps up. Consequently, the Government has to purchase at an enhanced price. What happens then? The Government cuts up the land purchased, and if it is not to lose money, it has to charge the settlers a correspondingly high price. The result is that every settler is handicapped for the rest of his life.
– There is no estate in New South Wales that has been resumed and subdivided the owners of which could not have sold at a bigger price to-day than they obtained for it from the Government.
– That statement does not detract from my argument. Perhaps the increased price is due to artificial scarcity. The great encouragement to new settlement must be that the settlers shall get their land cheap. I have heard some people argue that this tax will injure the farmers by reducing the value of their land. But It is obvious that a tax cannot reduce the value of any land which a man does not wish to sell. The farmer who remains on his land and cultivates it, will not be injured to the extent of one farthing by this tax. His corn will not refuse to cob, his wheat will not refuse to ear, his lucerne will not refuse to grow, his cows will not refuse to give milk, his chuckies will not refuse to lay eggs, because the Federal Government imposes a land tax. It is only the man who wishes to speculate in land that this legislation will affect. It will, on the contrary, benefit all those who desire to go upon the land and settle there. One of thefirst results incidental to this Bill to which I look forward with great hope is that it will be the means of settling hundreds of thousands of successful, prosperous farmers in the various parts of this country. I am satisfied that, as a result of it, Australia will secure an immensely larger population than she has now. Instead of having a quarter of a million settled in a particular part of a particular State, we shall probably have four or five millions. There is no earthly reason why this little State of Victoria should not carry a population of five millions, or why New South Wales should not carry ten or fifteen millions. There is no reason on earth why
Queensland should not support fifteen millions of prosperous and successful settlers. When we have so large a population, we shall have prosperity and contentment all found. Then shall we be absolutely secure from the attempts of any foreign aggressor to invade us with any hope of success. From every point of view, therefore - from the population point of view, from the taxation point of view, and from the point of view of the incidental effects of this legislation - it is eminently justified, and has been too long waited for in Australia. We never can have that large population, without which Australia cannot be safe, if we are to establish landlordism in this country. We cannot have a large population while a few people are enabled to own enormous areas upon which they will permit no one to settle. We cannot have a large population whilst good lands are used merely for grazing cattle and sheep. Notwithstanding the fact, which Senator Millen has been at pains to point out, that there are some areas of land in Australia that, at present, are most successfully used for grazing purposes, I am satisfied that they could be advantageously occupied and worked by a much larger population if they were held in much smaller holdings than is at present the case.In Western Queensland there is an absolute hunger for grazing farms. The farmers cannot get them. There are men who have gone in for as many as 150 land ballots, in the hope of being successful in acquiring grazing farms. If, instead of having one grazing area covering 200 or 300 square miles, we had a number of smaller farmers settled there-
On, an immensely greater amount of wealth would be produced, and a larger number of people would be benefited. If country like that were comparatively closely settled, instead of having one station occupying the size of a principality, the settlers would be able to enjoy a measure of social intercourse that is impossible on immensely large areas where nothing is to be seen but the everlasting sheep and the everlasting cow.
– There would be still little else than sheep in the far western country.
– Very likely; but in addition to sheep we could have a much larger population than we have now. I shall not speak of New South Wales, because I am not familiar with it. But I can say how the grazing farmer might be treated, and how he is treated to-day, in comparison with the big squatter in Queens land. The grazing farmer gets from 5,000 to 20,000 acres of land. The squatter gets from 50,000 acres up to two or three hundred square miles. The squatter is always allowed about 25 per cent. of his holding, classed as unavailable land, absolutely free of rent, and for the remainder he pays from 1/16. to1¼d. per acre.
– More than that.
– One penny farthing is the highest price any of them is paying in Queensland. The grazing farmer does not get a single perch of his land rent free, and pays from four to eight times as much rent as the squatter does. That is how we treat the poor man in comparison with the rich man. Yet those who oppose this Bill have the gall to accuse us of seeking to impose class taxation.
– The complaint is that the Government are not touching the big squatter under this Bill.
– If I had my way, I would make the tax apply to them. But blow hot or blow cold, it seems that we must incur the displeasure of the Opposition. They are continually telling us: “ This is a matter for the States “ ; and when we leave something to the States, they say, “ You are not interfering in this matter as you ought to do.”
– What I say is that the Government are not attempting to remedy the alleged evil in regard to the big pastoral holdings.
– Yes, we are, because there are large areas of freehold under pasture, and it is necessary that we should burst up those freeholds before we can have closer settlement. Some of these landowners have “ peacocked “ their holdings, obtaining the pick of the country at 10s. an acre. I know of cases where a squatter has “peacocked “ all. the best land within 100 square miles’, taking all the land convenient to water-courses, and thus preventing any one else from having access to them. For the reasons which I have given, the Government are to be highly commended, rather than blamed, for introducing legislation of this character. It is legislation which gives hope to the people of Australia for the future. It gives hope to the poorer people that the lands of Australia will in future be available to them. . It gives hope that we shall be able to build up such a nation as will be worthy to take its place beside any nation on this earth. It gives hope that we shall be able to defend Australia, because of our larger popu- lation here. Senator Symon has asserted that this legislation will be execrated by the widow and the orphan, who will be rendered destitute by it. In one case, which he cited, £70,000 worth of land is divided amongst seven people. He demanded commiseration for these poor widows and orphans. Such an exhibition is positively sickening. What about the poor widow who has to work at the washtub to earn bread for herself and her children, and who, in the past, has been taxed to the uttermost farthing? What about the poor, unfortunate woman who has to go down on her knees scrubbing floors for 3s. or 4s. a day? Senator Symon has not a word of sympathy for her. All his sympathies go out for the widow and the orphan who has £10,000 each in land.
– No one said that.
– Senator Symon gave an actual case of a family, every member of which has £10,000 in unimproved land values, and he mentioned it absolutely as a case calling for our sympathy. I trust that I have not said anything in the course of my speech that has hurt the feelings of any honorable senator opposite. I believe that, as the result of this legislation, the population of Australia will go up by leaps and bounds, and will double itself within the next ten years. I believe that it will be the means of enabling an enormous number of people to make a good and comfortable living on the lands of this country, and’ of securing the absolute integrity of Australia for all time. I believe, further, that by opening up the lands for the occupation of the people, they will be able to produce wealth hitherto undreamt of in the wildest dreams of any one in Australia today, and that in the future, instead of depending upon wool and one or two. other raw products, we shall be producing commodities to such an extent that we shall be able to support in prosperity and happiness a population nearer to 40,000,000 than to 4,000,000. If such results follow, as I am satisfied that they will, it will be said in the future that if the Labour party never did anything else, they have justified their existence by passing this legislation. The people of Australia will then be assured that any sacrifices they made in order to give the Labour party a chance of showing what they could do have been amply justified.
Debate (on motion by Senator McColl) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101021_senate_4_58/>.