4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In response to a question asked by Senator Keating on the 28th September, I beg to lay upon the table the following paper: -
Postal Department - Return showing the number and value of telegrams to and from Tag mania for the three years ended 31st December, 1907,1908, and1909.
For reasons which are set out in a footnote by the Postmaster-General, the return does not cover the whole of the period to which the honorable senator referred in his question.
– Is it the intention of the Government to keep the Navigation Bill on the notice-paper in front of the Naval Defence Bill ?
– By the time we are in a position to deal with the Naval Defence Bill and the Navigation Bill it will be in the power of the Government to rearrange the programme so as to suit the wishes of honorable senators.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– So far as the inquiries have proceeded, the Department of Trade and Customs has not obtained any information. In order to enable further inquiries to be made, I ask the honorable senator to postpone the question.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that I, at the request of the Department, supplied information on the subject?
– Order! There was no answer given to the honorable senator’s question.
– I am asking a question arising out of the reply, sir.
– The honorable senator cannot ask a question arising out of what was merely a request that he should postpone his question to a future occasion.
– The Minister stated that the Department had no information on the subject, and asked me to postpone my question. I desire to know whether it is not a fact that the Department has information which I supplied at its request? I think, sir, that my question is perfectly in order as arising out of the Minister’s answer.
– I ask that the question be postponed until Thursday.
– Where were the cheques refused payment ?
– The Department knows.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If it is the intention of the Government to submit proposals to Parliament for the payment of, or subsidizing the payment of, the expenses of any private Federal members to the Coronation of His Majesty the King?
– The question of the representation of the Commonwealth at the Coronation of His Majesty King George V. will shortly engage the attention of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Age newspaper of 21st instant relative to the relations of the Meteorological Department and the Department of the Postmaster-General regarding the transmission of meteorological information is correct?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 21st October (vide page 5007), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not know that in my long parliamentary career I have ever addressed myself to a subject with a greater feeling of misgiving and apprehension than I am about to do. It seems to me that we are entering a lane the end of which we cannot see. I utterly fail to see where the want of principle which is involved in this measure is going to lead us. It is quite understandable that the Government desire to pass the Bill through as quickly as possible, but the occasion is altogether too important and too serious to allow it to be rushed through. I think it is the duty of those who do not agree with it to show the real inwardness of it as far as they are able to do, because I am convinced that at the last general election, and even at the present time, the great majority of the people of this country do not understand what is involved. I do not wish it to be thought for a moment that I do not consider that land is a fair subject for taxation. Nor do I wish to object in any way to the progressive principle. We have that at present in our State, in regard to income tax and death duties. Therefore it is not out of place to apply the principle to land taxation, but the income tax and the death duties are purely revenue taxes, and there is a perfectly plain and straightforward course in their administration in the interests of both the country and thetaxpayers. Very contradictory reasons are given for the introduction of. this measure. One honorable senator tells us that it is introduced for the purpose of obtaining revenue.
– Who said that?
– Senator Gardiner said the other day that this was purelya revenue tax. We are told that we require revenue for the expenses of the Federal Capital, for the desert railways that are to be constructed, and for defence. Another says that the tax is intended to burst up big estates; another that it is intended to encourage immigration. Many reasons are given for the introduction of the Bill, none of them agreeing with each other, each, indeed, being to some extent destructive of the others. It is somewhat gratifying to witness this new-born zeal of the Labour party for immigration. For many years past they have set their face against such a policy.
– The honorable senator has misrepresented us often enough on that question.
– I have done nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator is trying to do so now.
– If I had chosen to take up the time of the Senate by reading extracts from speeches delivered by members of the Labour party, and from articles published in newspapers which represent them in this country, I could have proved my contention up to the hilt, and if I am challenged on the point I may do so later on, when the Bill gets into Committee. But, although many reasons have been given for the introduction of this measure, there is one real reason for it. It is in reality a measure to cheapen land, to destroy land values, to cause a slump in the price of land. The. burden of the speeches of my honorable friends, Senator E. J. Russell and Senator Givens, was almost entirely to that effect. They said, practically in so many words. “We want to bring down the value of land.”
– Three-fourths of my speech was devoted to the revenue aspect of the Bill.
– The title should be, not “ A Bill to impose a tax on unimproved land values,” but “ A Bill to cheapen land, and strike a blow at landed property.” I suppose that this Bill transcends in importance any measure that has ever been introduced into the Federal Parliament. We were, therefore, entitled to expect from the Leader of the Government a fairly full explanatory speech concerning it. It is a complicated Bill, and one certainly that required a very clear explanation. Bait we were not furnished with anything of the kind. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that he had not time, and that he did not think that it was necessary, because explanations could be given in Committee. He simply ran off the heads of the various portions of the measure, and offered us no explanations with regard to them. The whole speech’ breathed the idea, *’ We have the numbers, and we are going to pass the Bill ; an explanation is entirely unnecessary at the present time.” It seems to me that the attitude of honorable senators opposite, instead of being the attitude of statesmanship, which should have been manifested in dealing with a great question like this, affecting such enormous interests in this country, has been rather one of satisfaction and of gloating over the victims whom they were about to sacrifice. It is, to my mind, another phase of the vendetta against wealth, in favour of which the Labour party has started a crusade. Thi time the attack is levied against persons who have property in land. The Bill is not so much political as it is predatory and punitive. It breathes a spirit of spoliation and revenge, and it largely makes its appeals to cupidity. It is destitute of elementary justice. Whether the Bill is constitutional or not I am not prepared to say, nor am 1 a fair judge. Reading the Constitution, however, as the ordinary man in the street would read it, and having regard to the plain and simple language which it contains, it seems to me that the Bill is not constitutional even from the legal aspect. While it may be technically legal, it certainly perverts and cuts across the spirit and letter of that magnificent document. Of course, the views held by the members of the Convention have very little weight now. Their speeches and the spirit that they breathed into the Constitution, which was afterwards ratified by the people of Australia, seem to be entirely lost sight of. But if we would understand what was meant by the Constitution in the minds of those who framed it, we have to read the debates of the Convention; and if we do so we cannot find that it contemplated that any such measure as this would be passed by the Federal Parliament. Indeed, I venture to say that if any such measure had been foreshadowed at the time when the Constitution was submitted to the people there would have been very little chance of its being carried. It seems to me that the measure will be unjust in its incidence. It tends to bleed the rich, and yet will largely injure the poor. It will have an influence for evil far beyond the area in which it will immediately operate. These, I know, are strong statements to make, and before I have done I shall endeavour to justify them. If this had been a fair tax for revenue purposes to meet the needs of the Commonwealth’ I should not have objected to it. But it’ is a class tax, directed only against one body. The Minister said that the needs of the Commonwealth require direct taxation. But if the Government are going to tax wealth to meet the needs of the Commonwealth, why do they not tax wealth all round, and not simply tax one class?
– One thing at a time.
– The Minister’s remark gives me to understand that this is only the thin edge of the wedge. “ One thing at a time.” This is but one thing. We are now faced with a land tax. The next thing, I suppose, will be an income tax, or a property tax. I certainly do think that this Bill is a breach of faith. It was distinctly understood when the Constitution was adopted that direct taxation was to be left to the province of the States, except in cases of great emergency. I deny that an emergency has arisen just now, or anything approaching one. We have no need of this taxation for revenue purposes. The Government have ample funds to meet our expenditure for years to come. Therefore, this is a breach of the Federal understanding. The Minister told us that the Government anticipated that they would derive ,£1,000,000 per annum from the tax. He seemed to regret that they would not obtain £2,500,000, and said that it would be a good thing if such were the case, an opinion that was echoed by a number of his supporters in this Chamber. I have always understood that careful statesmanship takes no more from the people for the purposes of government than is absolutely necessary. A surplus of revenue is bad for the. Government as well as for the people, and it should be the endeavour of every Treasurer to make his income and expenditure meet as nearly as possible. When we learn that the Labour party hope that this tax will bring in two and a-half times more revenue than the Government who have introduced it anticipate, we may wonder what the Government will be likely to do with the money. It cannot be expected that the people will regard the imposition of taxation to such an enormous extent with any degree of equanimity. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in explaining how the Government arrived at their estimate of the revenue to be derived from the land tax, referred to the valuations of properties in the different States. He complained that they were very unsatisfactory, and he took the valuations in Victoria as the basis of the estimate that this tax will bring in a revenue of £1,000,000. It is strange that the Government should have based their estimate upon the figures supplied by the only State in which there is no unimproved land tax. If they had desired to know what an unimproved land tax might bring in, they might have gone to Western Australia, South Australia, or New South Wales, where a similar system is in operation under the State Governments, and something like accurate conclusions might hove been drawn from the figures obtainable in those States. I do not agree with the statement that in the different States, and especially in Victoria, properties are undervalued for the purpose of local taxation. Some properties may not be assessed at their full value, but the local bodies are not interfered with in this matter, and they raise sufficient to pay their expenses.
– They do not in many cases.
– They do, and they do their work well. Some local authorities make a low valuation and impose a high rate, whilst others make a high valuation and impose a low rate. In this measure the Government are endeavouring in a roundabout way to do something which they could not do in a straightforward way. They are endeavouring to make use of the taxing power of the Commonwealth to achieve ends which they could not under the Constitution achieve by direct legislation. Personally 1 do not consider that that is a right course to adopt. Direct taxation should be imposed for revenue purposes only, “but the Government are endeavouring to make use of this taxing power for quite other purposes. The statement that there is no land available for immigrants in this country has been very frequently repeated, and in this connexion, at the risk of being somewhat tedious, because it has been referred to before, I intend again to refer to the pamphlet Australia for Farmers, recently issued by the Government. It sets out at great length the area and productivity of the lands available for settlement in Australia. We are told in the preface to the publication that-
The contents of this book have been compiled from information furnished by responsible authorities, to whom this opportunity is taken of expressing the thanks of the Government of the Commonwealth.
The preface is signed by the Honorable E. L. Batchelor, Minister for External Affairs. I desire to give that honorable gentleman every credit for what he has done in the issue of this pamphlet. He has got out of the rut in which many of the members of his party are always struggling, and has fairly stated the advantages of settlement in Australia. I quote the following -
The interior of Australia from the foothills of the mountain ranges to the very heart of the continent, produces naturally grasses, herbage, and edible scrubs and trees, which enable a merino wool industry with an annual output of ^30,000,000 to be carried on, the sheep on such country being dependent almost entirely on the natural growths for sustenance.
The rainfall becomes less dependable as the centre of the continent is reached, but by the utilization of artesian water underlying areas as great as France and Spain, by conservation of some of the vast quantities of water that annually go to waste in all the oceans around Australia, and by the adoption of more scientific and provident methods of management of live-stock and cultivation areas, the effects of shortages in rainfall are being successfully combated throughout an annually expanding area of the interior.
We have heard a good deal of the folly ot bringing out people to starve in our inland districts, and in this connexion I may say that with respect to rainfall the following statement is made in the pamphlet -
In the accompanying map, furnished by the Commonwealth Meteorologist, it will be observed that the rainfall of Australia is not evenly distributed, and that the moderate rainfall essential for successful farming occurs in an irregular strip, extending in some cases several hundred miles inland, and following the eastern, southern (including Tasmania), and about half of the western sea-board. It is difficult to compute the exact extent of the area thus embraced, but the 10,000,000 acres at present under cultivation represent probably less than one-tenth of it, even when allowance is made for rough mountainous country and other tracts which, for various reasons, are unfitted for agriculture.
The annual production of ^40,000,000 worth of crops of all kinds on the 10,000,000 acres of the farming belt under cultivation, exclusive of over ^14,000,000 worth of dairy products and a vast amount of wool and meat, affords proof of the suitability of climate and soil for farming purposes.
Later on we are advised as to the treatment of immigrants when they arrive in this country -
On arrival at his destination the new comer is put in touch wilh the local Crown land agent or the agent for private lands.
The Bureau keeps a record of the large landowners who are ready to let their land to dairy and sheep farmers on the shares system, with the option of purchase later on.
This system has been roundly condemned by our honorable friends on the other side, but in this Government publication it is referred to in this way -
This system meets the needs of new arrivals, especially in cases where they have a large family, and who, though practical farmers, have not sufficient capital to immediately launch out upon their own account.
With regard to New South Wales land and land laws, we are told -
The land laws of New South Wales are very liberal, and they provide for the sale and lease of lands under various conditions.
With respect to homestead selections it is stated -
The annual rent for the first six years will be an amount equal to ii per cent, of the capital value of the land (i.e., 3d. in. the pound), after which the rent will be increased to 2% per cent, of the capital value. Areas up to 1,280 acres may be held under this tenure, and the Act provides for the appraisement of the capital value and readjustment of the annual rent every ten years. Should an area granted under this . tenure be found insufficient for the maintenance of a home, it may, under certain circumstances, be increased. This provision also applies to settlement leases and conditional purchases.
Dealing with settlement leases the statement is made -
Areas up to 1,280 acres for agricultural purposes and 10,240 acres for grazing may be obtained as settlement leases. Such leases have a term of forty years, and provision is made for the reappraisement of the rent every ten years, since the introduction of the 1903 Act. A settlement lease cannot be granted to a minor. The area leased must be fenced within five years, and the lessee must reside continuously on his holding during the whole term of the lease. After five years’ residence the lessee may apply for a homestead grant of that part of the holding on which his dwelling is situated, but the area so applied for must not exceed 1,280 acres.
In spite of these statements in a Government publication we are told by our friends opposite that there is no land available for settlement in Australia. There is an explanation given in the pamphlet also of the terms on which conditional purchase leases are given. It is explained that for a small initial outlay by way of deposit, and for a moderate rent under easy conditions, a settler may obtain a freehold of land in from thirty to thirty-eight years. Then a statement is made with respect to the conditions of land settlement in Victoria, irrigated lands are described, and the methods of acquiring them at a low rate extending over thirty-one and a-half years. A reference is also made to farm . workers’ blocks, which up to value of £200 can be obtained by settlers who would spend most of their time in working for others, and their spare time in improving their own land. Speaking of the mallee lands, the publication says -
Portions of about 2,000,000 acres of this land will be made available from time to time in the near future, in areas ranging from 600 acres to 800 acres. The purchase money varies from 10s. to £1 2s. 6d. per acre, payable by halfyearly instalments over a period of forty years at from 3d. to 63/4d. per acre per annum.
We have been told that there is no means of checking the aggregation of large estates except by means of the imposition of a progressive land tax. That that is not so is evidenced by the fact that in the mallee districts, the areas which can be taken up are limited. The accounts given of Queensland are very glowing. For instance, the booklet says -
The general terms and conditions of Crown land selection in Queensland are : -
Agricultural farms, under which mode land suitable for dairying and general f arming may be acquired in areas up to 1,280 acres. The purchase price ranges from 10s. per acre upwards. The term is twenty years, and the annual rent one-fortieth of the purchasing price. No interest is charged, and all payments of rent are credited as a part of the price. Within five years the selector must fence the land or effect improvements equal to the value of a fence. After five years the freehold may be obtained by the payment of the balance of the purchase money, but until the deed of grant is obtained the land must be continuously occupied by the selector residing personally upon it or by his manager or agent doing so. Those who undertake to personally reside for the first five years have priority.
Under the heading of “ Perpetual Lease Selections,” appears the following -
Land open as agricultural farms may also be opened for perpetual lease selection, and the latter mode may be conceded priority of application over the former. The rent for the first period of ten years is 11/2 per cent, of the price of the land for agricultural farm selection, and the conditions of residence are the same as on an agricultural farm.
A long account is also given of “ Agricultural Homesteads “ -
Under this mode of selection the area varies with the value of the land, namely, 160 acres in the case of land values for agricultural farms at not less than £1 per acre; 320 acres in the case of land valued at less than £1, but not less than 15s. per acre ; and 640 acres in the case of land valued at less than 15s. per acre.
All these terms are extremely liberal, and I quote them as a set-off against the statement which has been repeatedly made during this debate that no land is available for selection in Australia. Under the heading of “ Free Homesteads,” the publication says -
The area under this mode must not exceed 160 acres. The term is five years, during which period the selector must occupy the land by personally residing upon it, and must effect improvements to the total value of 10s. per acre.
Then we are told that -
Farmers in Great Britain and elsewhere may arrange to secure areas suitable for general arming, wheat-growing, dairying, or other pro ductive purposes prior to departure for Queensland. In such cases application must be made to the Agent-General for Queensland, Marble Hall, the Strand, London, who, on being satisfied with the bona fides of the application, will set aside an area which will be reserved until the applicant has an opportunity of inspecting it. If for any reason the area thus reserved is found to be unsatisfactory, the applicant, without forfeiture of any deposit, may seek another area, but he will have no prior right to applicants already in the State to any such area.
A description is then given of the lands available for settlement in South Australia ; and we are told that in that State 360,000 acres are now open for selection in various localities. The fair and equitable way in which land can be obtained in Western Australia is described as follows -
The conditions under which Crown lands in Western Australia may be acquired for settlement are : -
Free homestead farm of from10 to 160 acres for £1, application fee, and half survey fees, amounting to a maximum of £81s., making the total cost of a 160-acre block £91s. The conditions of the free grant entail improvements in the shape of clearing, fencing, and cultivation, to the value of 14s. per acre within seven years.Boundaries to be fenced, hall within five years, and the whole within seven years. Half value of fencing may be allowed towards the improvements.
Then conditional purchase lands are obtainable as follows -
From 100 to 1,000 acres, at from 10s. per acre, payable in forty half-yearly instalments.
The publication also contains a statement of the localities in which landis procurable, and of the area available in the various States. In New South Wales, we are told-
Large areas of Crown lands are available for selection in places, and farms may still be obtained under easy conditions, though most of the land of the best quality and nearest to the railway has been selected. Pioneering work would have to be done on these Crown lands now available before a farm could be evolved ; but these disabilities were just as apparent to a great many of our present-day farmers when years ago they drove their pigs in the primeval forest through which men had scarcely trod, much less built roads or laid rails.
In regard to Victoria, we are assured that-
The mallee, so-called because of the thick scrub of this name, dwarf eucalypt, with which the most of it was originally covered, contains about 11,000,000 acres, in the north-west of the State. It adjoins the Wimmera; but the soil is light in character, and the rainfall is much less - about11 to 14 inches per annum. There are still large areas of the mallee held by the Crown, and being opened for settlement. About 3,000,000 acres, known as the mallee fringe, adjoining the Wimmera district, have been settled during the last twenty years, and it is one of the great wheat-producing districts of Victoria.
We further learn that -
The irrigated land now offered to settlers has been subdivided into blocks to suit the needs of men of both ample and small means. There are z-acre blocks for homes for farm employes; 10-acre blocks for market gardeners ; and from 20 to 200-acre blocks for farmers.
In describing Queensland, the publication says -
Throughout the vast tracts of virgin land comprising the farming belts of Queensland, there are millions of acres awaiting settlement. Areas of excellent land are available in the Darling Downs, Lockyer, Stanley, Rosewood, Fassifern, Logan, Albert, Wide Bay, Burnett, and other districts of the south. In these localities dairy farming flourishes, but the soil and climate are suitable for a wide range of mixed farming.
Along the eastern sea-board, as far north as Bowen, dairy farming is extending by leaps and bounds, and large areas are available for occupation on easy terms. In the Blackall Range, to the north of Brisbane, dairy farming, mixed farming, and fruitgrowing are flourishing, but the areas at present occupied represent only a small proportion of the lands fitted for highly profitable use.
Considerable portions of the Northern Tablelands and parts of Central Queensland have been proved to be suitable for dairying as well as for mixed farming, wheat, wool, and meat production.
In the north, the Atherton Scrub, which comprises marvellously rich lands, has been opened up for settlement, and dairy farming is rapidly spreading therein.
The price of land varies, as indicated on pages 101-102, from 2s. 6d’. per acre upwards, repayable in easy instalments.
In speaking of South Australia, the booklet says -
Lands comprising about 360,000 acres are open to application in various localities. Lands containing over 4,000 acres are open to application in Waikerie Irrigation Area, about thirty miles east of Morgan, River Murray. Extensive areas of Crown lands are now under survey in the Hundred of James (about 62,000 acres), Franklin Harbor district; Darkes’ Peak country (about 80,000 acres), north-west of Arno Bay ; Hundred of Mantung (about I05,000 acres), adjacent to the proposed Tailem Bend and Brown’s Well railway ; Hundred of Hooper (about 90,000 acres), through which the said railway will pass; Hundred of Pendleton (about 18,000 acres), near Bordertown ;. Berri Berri (irrigation lands about 4,000 acres), on River Murray, south-west of Renmark.
We are also told that the Struan estate, containing about 22,000 acres was recently purchased for closer settlement. We are further informed that -
There are 19,345 square miles of pastoral land open for selection.
In other words, there are 12,380,800 acres open for selection in South Australia. Yet, we are told that there is no land available for settlement. The booklet states that in Western Australia -
There are millions of acres of unalienated lands in the State available for settlement. Most of this land can be obtained under conditional purchase settlement, but in the localities in which the greatest amount of settlement is taking place the land has been reserved, and is being surveyed into suitable blocks before being thrown open.
Victoria locations (Yuba), 12 to :S miles north of Northampton, 340 miles north of Perth; 20,000 acres in lots from 662 to 1,800 acres. Price, from 5s. 6d. to 20s. per acre. Rainfall, 15 to 17 inches. Suitable for mixed farming. Timber, York gum, jam, and tarnma.
Victoria locations (Nugadong, Dalwallinu, and Wilgie Hill). Situated 40 miles east of Watheroo, Midland Railway, and 132 miles from Perth. Over 100,000 acres in blocks from 600 to 1,000 acres. Timber, salmon gum, gimlet, and mallee. Suitable for wheat, sheep and horse breeding. Rainfall, 15 inches.
Avon locations, Eastern District (Titadjin). About 35,000 acres, in blocks from 752 to 1,000 acres. Prices from gs. 6d. to 16s. 6d. per acre, with Agricultural Bank advance of £500 on nearly all blocks. Timber, salmon gum, gimlet, and mallee. Rainfall, 10 to 12 inches.
Other Avon locations, Eastern District, practically the same as Titadjin, open or available shortly : KodjKodjin, 68,000 acres; Baannee, 43,000 acres; Mununoppin, 43,000 acres; Lake Brown, Barbalin, Mangownie, Knungajen, and Goomarin. Suitable for wheat and sheep.
Nelson locations (Balbarrup). Situated 200 miles south of Perth. Bridgetown agency situated on proposed Bridgetown-Wilgarup railway. In 200-acre lots. Prices, from 12s. to 50s. per acre. Timber, jarrah, red gum, blackbutt, and swamp banksia. Suitable for orchards and dairying. Rainfall, 35 inches. Agricultural Bank advances ^200 on these blocks.
Denmark, re-purchased estate. Three hundred and fifty-eight miles from Perth and 26 miles, from Albany. Seventeen thousand two hundred acres, in lots of 100 to 150 acres. Price, from gs. 6d. to 280s. per acre, according to improvements effected. Rainfall, 40 inches. Suitable for intense culture, dairying, &c.
Other surveyed areas, with blocks available. Gordon River, east of Cranbrook, ±6,500 acres. Great Southern Railway.
Dinninup, g3,50o acres, and Kojonup Brook, 71,250 acres. Situated on the proposed Kojonup to Boyup railway. Rainfall, 22 to 25 inches. Suitable for mixed farming and intense culture. Timber, blue and flooded gum, jarrah, banksia, blackboys, &c.
Estates have been purchased from time to time and sold successfully. The last purchased being Narra Tarra Station, n miles east of Geraldton, which consists of 23,000 acres, now being subdivided, and will be available early next year. Timber, jam, wattle, &c.
A homestead freehold farm of 160 acres is granted for the nominal sum of £9 rs., which is really the bare cost of survey and deeds, to applicants who do not hold more than 100 acres conditional purchase land in the State; but this does not apply to re-purchased estates, on which no homestead farms are granted.
In all, sir, there are, in Western Australia, 540,450 acres now available for settlement. Yet we are assured that no land is available for settlers who come to Australia. It is said that this book is not reliable, but the Government have to look to that. There is another book which has been sent in large numbers to the United States of America, and in which we read with regard to wheat -
Within the recognised farming belt, and on the outskirts, there are many millions of acres of fertile soil, which, under advanced methods of dry farming, are capable of producing profitable crops of wheat throughout the vast territories in each State of the Commonwealth, in which during the past twenty years agricultural settlement and railroads have rapidly spread, and in which there are now many millions of acres open for farm settlement; climatic conditions are ideal for eight or nine months of the year - autumn, winter, and spring - with no bitter cold, no heavy snowfall, and no devastating frosts.
– Who issued the book?
– It was issued by the Fisher Government.
The area at present under wheat represents probably one-twentieth of the lands of Australia which are naturally fitted to produce profitable crops of wheat under the present methods practised in Australia, and possibly one-fortieth of the area upon which wheat could be grown in alternate seasons under scientific methods of dry farming.
The lands comprising the 15 to 30 inch rainfall belt, and on which wheat is now successfully grown, may be roughly classified as : -
Upland country, at an altitude of 800 to 2,500 feet above sea-level, which in its virgin state carries fairly large trees and consists of fairly heavy loam.
Intermediate country, at lower elevations, carrying smaller trees and friable loam.
Plain country, in great expanses, with fairly light natural timber and light soil.
Scrub country, carrying in its virgin state dense growths of Mallee or other scrubs of small girth with greatly-enlarged underground stem.
In most districts of each State there are numerous other classes of land on river banks, &c, but it may be said that the outstanding feature of most Australian wheat land is the low cost at which it can be worked.
The wheat soils of Australia are, with few exceptions, naturally well drained and sufficiently rich in plant food to produce profitable crops for many years without the addition of fertilizers.
In their natural state they carry, as a rule, a luxuriant growth of sweet and nutritious grasses, which are unequalled in any country for wool-producing and fattening purposes.
The only preparatory treatment required on pastoral lands is to thin out the limber by ringbarking.
Much of the land that is now being put under wheat was formerly occupied by graziers.
Beyond what is regarded as the safe farming belt under ordinary methods of cultivation, the natural grasses are abundant, and serve to indicate the suitability of the soil for wheat production under scientific methods of treatment.
The fact that the pastoral lands of Australia are carrying on natural pasturage at present 92,000,000 sheep and 11,000,000 head of cattle, producing wool and meat to the value of $240,000,000 per annum, is the main reason why the possibilities of the drier districts for wheatgrowing have remained so long unexploited.
In view of very many statements which have been made to the detriment of Australia, I thought it was absolutely necessary to place these quotations in Hansard, coming as they do from the highest recognised authority of all. The Minister in charge of the Bill told us about the conditions in Scotland and Ireland. Probably I know the conditions in those countries as well as he does, as I was there but recently. I join with the honorable senator in the regret that our kith and kin are not there now, as they used to be. The only remains of my forefathers I could find were on moss-grown tombstones. The conditions in Australia are quite different from the conditions in the Old Country. It is not likely that we shall ever reproduce the latter conditions under the democratic system which we enjoy. We are also told that year by year land is going out of cultivation, hence we need a land tax. Now, land is going out of cultivation for various reasons. For instance, many persons have turned their attention to dairying, which has been more profitable and safer than wheat growing, as there is an income coming in every week, instead of yearly. Persons turn their attention to dairying, especially those who have families. Another reason why land is going out of cultivation is the impossibility of getting the necessary labour. If we were to throw open tomorrow land which could be cultivated, it would lie idle for a very long time, unless some very strong steps were taken to bring in immigrants of the right character. I hold no brief for land-owners. I am not one of their class, and I have never had the support of large land-owners. But I desire to see legislation which is just and honest. I do not want a man because he has a lot of land to be treated in an unworthy manner. We ought to have honest dealing with both rich and poor. It may be thought from comments which have been made that these land-owners pay no taxation, but what are the facts ? We find that they are subject to very large rates of taxation indeed. I could elaborate the land, income, and local government taxes at great length, but do not wish to do so. I shall content myself with summarizing what the people whom we are taxing under this measure have to pay. In New South Wales, an unimproved land tax brings in an annual revenue of £80,794; the general rate under the Local Government Act - I exclude special, water, and other rates - £267,136; and an income tax, £202,369.
– Local taxation is for services rendered.
– That is all right, but the people have to pay the taxation all the same.
– Yes ; but they are getting value for the money.
– Is not this taxation to be paid for services rendered?
– Not in the sense in which local taxation is.
– In New South Wales, the direct taxation totals £550,299. In Victoria a land tax produces £85,559 a year, which I admit is a most inadequate amount. It is a land tax which ought to have been brushed aside long ago in favour of a fairer one. The local government rates run from 6d. to 2s. 6d. in the £1, but, taking the average rate at is. 6d., property owners pay £984,296 a year, while the income tax yields £304,464, making a total direct taxation of £1,374,319- In South Australia, the land tax brings in £92,158, the local government tax £303,227, and the income tax £160,177, making a total direct taxation of £555,562. In Western Australia, the land tax brings in £33,120, and the local government tax £382,583, so that the direct taxation totals £415,703. In Tasmania, the land tax produces £59,651, which it is proposed to increase by £80,000 or £90,000, and the local government tax ,£164,465. I may explain that that tax is levied, not on the unimproved value, but on the full value of a property. The income tax yields £94>OI5> making a total direct taxation of £318,131, which is, I think, a very large amount for little Tasmania. In Queensland, the taxation under local Government amounts to £558,838, and the income tax yields £273,091, making a total direct taxation of £831,929. There we see that the property owners in the States, who are being held up as practically contributing nothing towards the cost of government, are paying a total sum of £4, 045, 943. Senator McGregor told us that this is one of the most complete legislative measures which had ever been drafted. It seems to me that it is very complete in some respects. It will probably bring about a systematic confiscation of freeholds in land. When reasons are given for levying this tax, we are told that the Government have a mandate from the people. We are also told about the unearned increment. The country never gave a mandate for a Bill like this. Certainly the people anticipated a land tax, because they thought that land was going to be made available. If such a measure had been put before the country, and explained properly, with all these obnoxious clauses, I think that we should have had a different state of affairs to-day. While there are many acts of injustice, some are even more glaring than others. At the last election the cry of land taxation was popular foi certain reasons. It was popular because it was thought that the imposition of a land tax would operate so as to burst up big estates, allow poor men to get land, and thus bring about closer settlement. People with small estates were told. “ Vote for us ; you will not be touched. D > not trouble about your property ; it is only the big men who will suffer.” The landless were told, “ If you vote for us, we will make land cheaper.” And so votes were obtained. But the Bill does not deal only with country lands; it goes very much further. It deals with city properties and in a wholly unwarrantable manner. Were the people at the general election told that there was to be a tax on city properties with the object of bursting them up ? No. Not that I say that city properties should be exempt. They should pay their fair share of the taxation of the country. But they should pay it on just lines and on an average rate. The Government should not put a cumulative tax on town properties. By so doing they show no sense of justice whatever.
– Under the Constitu-, tion we cannot differentiate. [
– Is there any rea- i son for trying to differentiate? The Government are sailing as close to the wind, J as far as the Constitution is concerned, as they could. There was no hurry for this ,’ measure. They could have asked for power I to differentiate. This tax, as applied to city properties, will penalize the very best class of men, and those who have spent their money most freely in finding employment. ‘ It will penalize the men who have done the most to improve their neighbourhoods, and will scarcely touch those who have left their allotments idle.
– It will tax those who have made employment hard to get.
– What nonsense ! That kind of statement is simply absurd. Such talk puis me in mind of the American senator who, on going to address a meeting, took his boy with him. When the boy got home his mother said, “ How did father speak?” The boy replied, “ O. splendidly. He made such a touching speech that some of the audience burst into tears.” The mother asked “Were you in tears, my boy?” “ Oh, no mother,” said the lad, “ I know father ! “ When I listen to this rhodomantade from honorable senators opposite I simply say, “ I know them, and do not believe them.” The country also will know them before very long. I say again that this Bill penalizes the men who have done most to improve their properties, whilst the men who have left their blocks lying idle will hardly be touched.
– Would the honorable senator charge them less?
– I would charge them more. How do the Government suppose that city properties are going to he divided ? Do they propose to pull down places like Cole’s Hook Arcade, Foy and Gibson’s store, George and George’s, and the Grand Hotel ? Do they propose to pull down the factories that, under our domestic legislation, are employing so many hands? Yet the owners of those properties suffer under this tax, inasmuch as they are (he owners of city lands; whilst the man who is keeping his property idle, who is holding his neighbourhood back, is to be let off lightly in comparison. We are told that the Government cannot discriminate. On the contrary, there are more glaring discriminations in this measure, having regard to the Constitution, than would be shown if we could discriminate in respect of city properties. My honorable friend, Senator E. J. Russell, quoted from an article published some years ago by the late Mr. David Syme, but he did not tell the Senate that that article dealt with city properties, and not with country lands. It dealt with the rise and growth of Melbourne, and showed the necessity for taxing the unearned increment occasioned by that growth. This Bill, however, does not meet a case of that sort in any shape or form. I find that another article, dealing with the land question, which has recently been published, states -
We may say at once that such a tax was neither contemplated nor authorized by the? electors, lt has not even the justification of expediency. Purely class or “ wealth “ taxes are never imposed by thoughtful statesmen except in the event of some national emergency. They are always held in reserve for meeting serious and unexpected crises ; a war, for example ; and the objection to enforcing them in times of peace and prosperity is that they leave the Legislature largely exhausted of what should be treasured as an ultimate resource. The Fisher Government has not attempted to deny that its landtax system^ in its application to city lands, is harsh and unjust. It pleads as excuse, therefore, the limits of the Constitution. Mr. Fisher and his colleagues would like to treat city landowners more fairly, but they cannot. The Constitution forbids them to discriminate, and so, for better or for worse, city land-owners must be penalized in the “ bursting up “ rates, although it is utterly impossible either to subdivide their properties or to put them to a use more profitable to the State than their present use. Mr. Fisher says in effect to the city land-owner, “ We are really very sorry for you, old chap, because your case is undoubtedly a hard one. But we can’t help it. We must get the country effectively occupied, and since we cannot do that, under the Constitution, without hurting you, well, we must hurt you. Take your consolation in the historic fact that injustice to individuals is an inevitable incident of all new laws and systems of taxation.”
– What has that passage to do with what I quoted?
– The honorable senator quoted from an article by the late Mr. Syme, and what I have just quoted is from an article published by the Age newspaper about a fortnight ago. The facts quoted by the honorable senator are quite correct. I do not dispute that. But they did not apply to this Bill. My honorable friend’s speech was from beginning to end one long cry of “ destroy land values “ ; that is, destroy the values that men after a lifetime have got together, and upon which they are depending for their own living and for the livelihood of their children. Honorable senators who support the Government think that they are only going to hit the big man. Let me tell them that you cannot hit any class in this country but all the others will suffer. The big man whom you want to hit will not feel the blow so much as the small man whom you are hitting through the big one. The small man will suffer most in the long run, and the small man will turn on this Government in the long run.
– That is a very small argument.
– I know that no argument will penetrate the understanding of my honorable friend. Not that he cannot understand, because his intellect is just as acute as that of any man present - if not more so. But he does not want to understand or to listen to argument. He simply wants to pass this measure. When you pull down the big man the small man will be bound to follow. There will be a general slump in land values. And that is what is wanted by the Labour party. I come to another point in regard to this measure, in respect of which it appears to me that cruel injustices will be done. I refer to clauses 30 and 31, which affect mortgages. Those clauses will ruin thousands of people. Few men will mortgage their property willingly. They mortgage when necessity drives them to do so. In a few cases men will mortgage to provide money to buy properties to settle their children whom they desire to keep near them. Men, as a rule, have to mortgage as a consequence of misfortunes and necessity. They mortgage because they are in straits, or because they have had a bad season, or because of loss of crops or of stock, or because from any other reason they are short of cash. In many such cases this tax will be the crowning stroke. lt will lower the value of their land, and ruin them. If there are two estates alongside each other, one small and the other large, the value of the smaller estate will be lowered just like that of the large one. The mortgagor will find that his equity of redemption has vanished. His margin of security, which represents his life’s savings, will be absolutely swept away by one stroke from this measure. It will put upon him an extra burden which he cannot meet, and as a consequence he will throw up the sponge. His lender will not renew, because he will say, “ Your land is depreciated 20 or 30 per cent, by reason of the Federal land tax, and I cannot therefore renew your loan on the same lines. You will have to take so much less ; otherwise 1 cannot renew at all.” If the man cannot pay the balance between what he has borrowed and the amount which the mortgagee is prepared to lend on renewal, foreclosure will follow. The mortgagor will, perhaps, have to leave the home which he has built up during a lifetime, and he will curse the men who have brought in legislation of this description. How much land is mortgaged in Australia? I was unable to obtain accurate figures from the Govern ment, but I find that in 1908 alone 40,651 mortgages were negotiated in Australia. These mortgages amounted in all to £32> 774,943- What will happen to the mortgagors when they are faced with this tax? Many of them will inevitably be ruined. In Victoria, I suppose that half the estates of over £5,000 in unimproved value are mortgaged up to 60 per cent., and in New South Wales, as far as I can ascertain, about three-fourths of the estates over that value are mortgaged. I am sure I am within bounds when I say that, taking: Australia as a whole, at least one-half of the estates are mortgaged up to probably 6oper cent. Under this tax hundreds of families will go under. Millions of acres will come on to the market. The men whowill gain will not be the working men, bur the speculators, who will come in and buy up land with the object of making a profit later on.
– How will the speculators make money if land values depreciate as the result of the tax?
– Because they will cut up the estates, and so escape the tax.
– That will not be a bad idea.
– The Government will settle people on the land by turning off the people who are already settled there, and who have spent their all on the properties which they hold. The man who goes to effect a mortgage on a glutted market is absolutely sure of failure. In addition to the registered mortgages there are other loans from banks and other institutions, which are not registered. The managers of these institutions will take alarm, just as will private mortgagees, and will want further securities, or else will require their loans to be paid off. Some of these mortgages will affect not only the outlying districts - not only districts like ‘the Riverina and the back country of Victoria - but the Western District of this State. Many farmers there have tried to secure properties for their sons, and have mortgaged their own properties for that purpose. I have it from people who know thefacts that many of such farmers will beabsolutely ruined, because they cannot meet their responsibilities in face of the taxation that is being imposed.
– Will such people have more than £5,000 worth of land?
– Some of them have: ‘
– Poor farmers?
– If a man has four or five sons, £5,000 does not go far in the Victorian Western District. If he makes himself responsible for the property of his sons, the probability is that he will lose his own land as well. There are many cases in connexion with which, when this tax is added to the interest on mortgage and the expense of working the estate, it will absorb all the income from it. The men who will suffer most from this legislation will be our best farmers, the men on whom the country really depends. Honorable senators opposite profess to desire to strike at the big land-holders in this legislation, but they are not the only men who will suffer from it, and they will not suffer most. The men who will suffer most under this Bill will be those who are struggling to keep the homes they have established, and are trying to get homes for the children who are to come after them..
– The farmers voted for the measure now before the Senate, knowing that it would be advantageous to them.
– They did not vote for this measure. They did not know anything about it, and Senator Findley took good care, when before the country, not to explain the details of it.
– He did explain them.
– I find that the following statement appears in the* GovernorGeneral’s Speech made at the opening of the present session -
In view of the urgent necessity for encouraging an influx of suitable immigrants to the Commonwealth in order to more effectively develop its great resources and defend it against possible invasion, my Advisers intend to adopt a policy which it is confidently believed will, by making fertile land available, speedily induce very large numbers of people of the right kind to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.
How are they making it available? By getting it honestly? No, by taxing the owners of the land out of it and confiscating it. Land which is improved up to its full value will be liable to taxation under this Bill. There seems to be a good deal of confusion of thought as between unimproved values taxation and unimproved land taxation, but the two things are quite distinct. Many persons who have improved their holdings were under the impression that they would escape this taxation. They said, “ We have put our land to the best possible use, have improved it as much as it can be improved, and ought, therefore, to escape the proposed taxation. And yet we find that our neighbours, who have not improved their land in any way, will be asked to pay no more land taxation than we shall have to pay.”
– Under existing conditions, the man who improves his land has to pay more than the man who does not improve it.
– Land that has been fully improved, and is utilized to its full productive capacity, will be subject to this taxation. This will occur where the present value of the land is not equal to what was originally paid to the Government for it. Certainly, the amount originally paid to the Government for land should not be included iti estimating its unimproved value. The whole basis of this Bill is wrong. If we desire that lands should be fully utilized, and made productive, we should penalize those who are not making such a use of their land, and we should not penalize those who are doing the best they can with it. Senator Fraser referred to the Boisdale estate, and I know that ten or twelve years ago it was in the hands of one man, and only three people were employed upon it ; but, as soon as the sons got possession of the estate, they cut it up into farms of 400 or 500 acres each, and spent £400 in improvements on each farm. The estate is now fully settled, and is being worked to its full productive capacity. But this tax is to be imposed upon the farmers who now occupy that estate. Should they desire to purchase and the owners be willing to sell they would be unable to pay the 15 per cent., and would have to walk’ off it.
– Is that the estate on the other side of Maffra?
– And 300 families will be rendered homeless.
– Oh !
– All we get in answer 10 these instances is a laugh and a jeer.
– I know of men who were induced to take up that land, and dropped ,£200 or £300 each over it.
– I know people on that estate at the present time who are doing extremely well. They left holdings of their own to go there, because of the advantages offered. I have already referred to the declamations we have heard against the share system, and I may say that I have known it to be carried on under most iniquitous conditions in some cases, but I have also known it to be carried cn under the finest conditions. In many cases the only way in which a working man can get a start is to take up land on the share system. A man coming here without money can go on to wheat or dairying land on the share system, and if he works hard, and is careful and thrifty, he will, in a few years, be in a position to get land of his own. It is the only system open to many people by which they can ultimately secure land for themselves.
– That is what the Government pamphlet says of it.
– Yes; it says it is a desirable system for newcomers. We know that one member of the Government has let his property on the share system, and I may say that, in connexion with it, there has occurred the only case of eviction that I ever heard of in Australia.
– Let us have the name.
– The honorable senator knows the name. There are tenant farmers as well as share farmers occupying land in Australia, and I could mention one estate of 30,000 or 40,000 acres that is held by a number of tenant farmers. From £400 to £500 has been spent by the owner 011 each of these farms, but there is a mortgage on the estate, and under this legislation, when the tenant farmers are asked to find the 15 per cent, deposit, they will have to walk off their properties. Instances of this kind could be multiplied.
– Quite a number of estates in New South Wales are being subdivided to-day on a 10 per cent, deposit.
– With regard to the improvement of land, I have already referred to the difficulty of obtaining labour. Assuming that this legislation would make millions of acres available for settlement, who are we to get to settle them? A man going in for ordinary farming in Australia would require from £300 to £350 for implements alone to make a start.
– The Government pamphlet says £390.
– I mention a low estimate. It would cost the settler from ;£i6o to ^200 for a team of horses for his implements. To take up 300 or 400 acres of land for the growth of wheat or other cereals a man would require an immediate capital of .£300 or ^400, and would then have to borrow something to get a start. There are many land-owners who are quite willing to cut up their estates; but the Government give them no opportunity to do so. In another place, a motion was submitted to extend the time to December during which land-owners might cut up their estates. We are told that the Government are proposing this taxation in order to burst up large estates; but they will not give land-owners time in which to subdivide their estates. The land-owner is trapped under this Bill. In New Zealand, when similar legislation was proposed, time was given to land-owners to advertise the subdivision of their estates, and to look around for people to take up their land. No time is given to landowners in Australia for this purpose ; and, in the circumstances, I ask how the Government can say that it is their intention to burst up big estates when they refuse to give the holders of them the necessary time in which to subdivide them? When honorable senators opposite were before the electors there was no talk of a land tax of 6d. in the j£i. The highest rate mentioned then was 4d. in the £1 ; and I say that, even now, the Government should reconsider the matter and give the owners of big estates in Australia an opportunity to subdivide them. We do not urgently require the revenue to be derived under this measure for the next year or two. The Government might at least give land-owners another year in which to cut up their estates ; and, if they have failed to do so in that time, they might be fairly subjected to this taxation. The Government are proposing in this Bill to tax, not merely good land, but grazing and poor lands as well. They propose to tax land in the dry country that is being put to its best possible use at the present time. All that it is possible to do with a great deal of our land is to grow sheep and cattle upon it ; and that is what is being done at the present time. The unimproved value of much of that land is actually less than the owners paid for it in hard cash. Where is the unearned increment in the case of such lands ? On what are their owners to be taxed? They cannot subdivide the land, because no one would take it up in small areas ; and it can only be put to the use to which it is being put at the present time. The owners of these lands will have to pay this tax or walk off their properties. They are not suitable for closer settlement; and though they only brought about £1 per acre all round, their value has gone down instead of going up. There might be some justice in a proposal to impose land taxation on the better land of the Commonwealth ; but there is no justification for the imposition of this land tax on such lands as 1 have just described. The proposed tax will be equal to from 10 to 50 per cent, of the income, according to the area held ; and this means that the owners will have to pay from one bale in ten to five bales in ten of the wool they get from their holdings. We know, also, that the holders of land who are making most out of it in this country are not free-holders, but leaseholders who are leasing land from the State and paying little more than a peppercorn rental for it. These people will escape taxation under this measure, although they are making large fortunes from the use of Crown lands. No honorable senator will contend that that is fair. I wish to refer again to the rate suggested in the manifesto of the Labour party. The maximum mentioned was 4d. in the £1 Mr. Fisher, in his speech at Gympie, proposed a tax of 4d. in the £1 ; and, in the circumstances, I ask whether this Bill is not a breach of faith with the people? How is it that we have a confiscatory tax of 6d., equal to half the earnings from the land, proposed ? The Prime Minister has said that it is because he had 6d. in the £1 on his notes. Was there ever a lamer statement made by a responsible Minister of the Crown? Either the honorable gentleman was misleading the people, or the Government are trying to do so now. At any rate, the Government are not keeping faith with the people.
– The people were quite content to take Mr. Fisher’s statement on trust. The 4d. in the £1 rate was meant for purposes of illustration.
– Then why do not honorable senators opposite fix the tax at is. in the £1? They might just as well propose to rob a man of the whole of his income from land as propose to rob him of half of it.
– The honorable senator knows that he tried to make out that the tax would be is. when he was before the electors.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Yes ; the honorable senator did.
– The honorable senator is making an absolutely incorrect statement. If I were somewhere else I should designate the statement by a stronger term. We have been told that the result of the proposed tax will be merely to restore to the Slate a portion of the value which the community has created in these lands. This idea of the unearned increment is a very complicated one, and one which to my mind does not work out altogether justly. For instance, what unearned increment is there in the case of the lands of Gippsland, where men have had to clear the country at an expenditure ot £40, £50 or £60 per acre, and where they cannot obtain that price tor it to-day ? Where does the question of the unearned increment arise in connexion with mallee lands ? We all know that there, through drought and bad seasons, men have been driven off their holdings again and again. It is only the second and third generation of farmers who have succeeded. There is no question of unearned increment there.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Take the case of a great newspaper. Is there no unearned increment in connexion with that? What makes a newspaper great but the construction of railways and the presence of people? The same remark is applicable to a softgoods house in Flinders-lane. What Has made it but the railways and the spread of population? So we may traverse the whole scale of individuals who have made money in this country. How much of our parliamentary salary of .£600 a year represents unearned increment? Why should a man upon the land who has had to struggle, perhaps for a lifetime, to achieve success, be specially penalized in this matter of the unearned increment? We have been repeatedly told that the construction of railways has enhanced the values of land. But many of our settlers opened up the country long before the railways were built. In America, we know that the railways preceded settlement. Yet there is no talk there about imposing taxation of this description. It is too bad that the men who have opened up the country should be specially penalized because of the cry which has been raised in regard to the unearned increment. What will be the influence of this tax upon outside investors? It is bound to affect Australian credit. To-day the States have a public indebtedness of £251>77Z>533> of which amount 75 per cent, has been raised in London. We shall have to borrow still further. If the Commonwealth does not borrow, the States will have to do so. What sort of a reception will they receive in view of this repudia- tion - this confiscation of interest ? At present New South Wales pays annually by way of interest upon her public debt £ii75>3%°) Victoria, £1,948,094; Queensland, £1.634,787; South Australia, YUL 114,944 ; Western Australia £756,599 ; and Tasmania, £370,068. The States arc thus contributing in interest £8,999,872 annually. During the next five years loans amounting to £20,409,899 will fall due, and these will either have to be paid or renewed. What sort of a reception will our financiers receive when they approach the London money market and ask for a renewal of these loans? Will they not be obliged to pay more interest upon them? During the following three years an additional £24,166,003 will fall due. In other words, during the next eight years, loans amounting to £48,175,902 will mature. I wish the State Treasurers joy when they endeavour to secure a renewal of these loans. We have also to recollect that the private borrowings of Australia amount to £^200,000,000. This money has been expended in developing the country.
– I call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– We all recognise that the development of Australia is due to public and private borrowing, and that we shall have to continue to borrow. We cannot avoid doing so. If we are going to pay for the construction of desert railways, for the building of a Federal Capital, and for all sorts of nationalization fads out of taxation, we shall bleed the country white. We must consider the ultimate effect of such taxation. We must consider its effect upon the States, of whom we are the trustees, and of whom we should be the special guardians. Surely it is not proposed to develop the Northern Territory out of revenue? Such an undertaking is not to be thought of. The Prime Minister has already received a warning from London regarding the effect of the proposed tax. I suppose, however, that honorable senators opposite will laugh at that warning. What was the cablegram which the Prime Minister received as to the alarm which the proposed tax had caused amongst British investors ? The following is a newspaper extract -
The following cable has been received by the Prime Minister from the British Australasian Society : - “ Proposed Federal land tax is creating feeling of serious alarm in circles here deeply interested in Australia. Influential meeting of companies largely interested submits follow ing representation to Commonwealth Government, namely : - The tax is oppressively heavy, invidious in its incidence, largely destructive of land values, injurious to land-owners, as well as to mortgagors and mortgagees, likely to re£200,000flow of capital into Australia in connexion with land settlement, and development, and to induce withdrawal of money already supplied ; provisions for assessment of individual shareholders inquisitorial and impracticable; penalizing of absentee land-owners unjust and impolitic. Tax will conflict with existing land taxation of individual States, and, added to that, will impose an intolerable burden. Meeting not opposed to policy of closer settlement, which can be, and is being, largely promoted by present land-owners, but strongly deprecates the passing into law of the proposed measure, as inimical to best interests of Commonwealth and its people, as well as of those who have invested capital there.”
That warning ought not to pass unheeded. If it does we shall find later on, when we wish to renew our Joans, that it will be translated into something very much worse than a warning. British investors will not send their money here any longer. They will invest it in Canada and the United States, where they can secure a fair deal. Under this Bill the individuals who have invested in private property in Australia will be doubly taxed. I agree with Senator Symon that the absentee who, having made his money here goes abroad to live, and merely draws dividends from this country ought to be taxed. But those persons who have never resided here, but have invested their money here, ought not to be singled out for special disabilities. There is another aspect of this matter which we ought not to forget, namely, the way in which the proposed tax will deplete the funds of the States. Surely it is a misnomer to call the Senate a States’ House, seeing that it is doing all that it can to crush the States instead of to protect them. This Parliament has obtruded upon the domain of the States in the matter of direct taxation. At present the settlers in remote districts are crying out for the construction of railways and roads, and for water conservation. And what answer can the States give to their requests? They can only say, “The Commonwealth Parliament has robbed us of the funds that we need, and, therefore, we cannot do what you desire.” That is the answer which is already being given. For what are we taking this money from the people? Po construct desert railways and a Federal Capital, to take over the Northern Territory, and possibly to spend a portion of it upon a trip to the Coronation festivities. One of the most disheartening spectacles which one can witness is the callous attitude of honorable members opposite towards this Bill. Do- they realize what they are doing?
– Of course we do.
– My honorable friend is the easiest going member of the Senate. Either honorable senators opposite do not realize what they are doing, or they are content to ignore their responsibilities. The most earnest protests have been made against the Bill without any avail. To the able and eloquent arguments put forward by members of another place, only one answer has been given, namely, that the Caucus has settled it.
– The country has settled it as the honorable senator will find when he goes before his constituency.
– A seat in the Senate is merely an incident in my life. The principles of honesty and justice are very much dearer to me. It has been said that the bulk of the clauses of the Bill have been copied from the New Zealand Act. But in the Dominion the land-owners were allowed time within which to subdivide their estates. There, the tax was imposed gradually. Further, there is only one taxing authority in New Zealand. The valuation of land by land-owners themselves was given up after the passing of the Act, being found unjust and unworkable.
– Wrong again, as usual !
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that in New Zealand the land-owners still value their own land ? The honorable gentleman does not answer me. He was good enough to include in his speech upon this measure a comparative table relating to land taxation and showing how the assessments are made. The honorable senator says that I am wrong. But he has told us that in New Zealand the assessment is made by Government valuers, that the Lands Department employs a permanent expert staff of valuers, and supplies the assessment rolls used by the Land and Income Tax Department. In New Zealand there is no selfvaluation. Again, its circumstances are quite different from ours. New Zealand is only a small country, with a small population, being quite dissimilar from this enormous continent. In New Zealand they have no droughts, and their seasons are steady. Yet it is said here, “ See what a land tax has done for New Zealand.” What is claimed for New Zealand is attri butable, not to its land tax, but to its borrowing policy. They have borrowed within a few pounds of £80,000,000 ; in 1908-9 they borrowed £4,484,637. It is the influx of borrowed money which has sustained New Zealand, and given her the prosperity which is wrongly attributed to the land tax. There is another aspect from which I should like this measure to be considered, and that is the ethical effect of this taxation. It is a politically immoral tax. It cannot be defended on the ground of morality, because, to my mind, it is not an honest impost. Of course, this taxation is popular with a section, because it hits the other man ; but legislation which is not on a sound moral basis is rotten, and is sure to work its punishment before very long. The reaction is bound to come. The penal clauses in this Bill cannot be found in any other taxation measure. The object of the penal provisions, combined with the selfvaluation, is to terrify land-owners into making excessive valuations. All our depressions have been natural, but the depression which will result from the imposition of this land tax will be brought about by political influences alone. If I thought that that was likely to be the ultimate trend of this kind of legislation,. I should despair of Australia, but I believe that the people will come to their senses, and see the injustice of many provisions in this measure. Opportunity has been taken by the Caucus to overstep the policy placed before the country at the general election. The Government had not the pluck to stand by that policy. It is said that the proposed rate of 6d: in the £1 is a compromise between a section of the Caucus, which wanted to levy a tax of 8d., and a section which favoured a tax of 4d. At the general election the members of the Government spoke of a tax of 4d., and, as honest men, they should have stood by what they put before the people. We cannot alter the rate, as we have not the numbers ; we can only protest against its imposition. If this is what can he done “ in the green tree,” we can look forward with some dismay to what may be done “in the dry.” This legislation is part of a squeezing process to extinguish the States, by depleting them of revenue. Ten years ago the members of the present Government, and nearly all their supporters, were Unificationists. They did not get their way at the Federal Convention, but now, by a curious conjunction of circumstances, they have their way, and are making the best of their opportunity. They are boring into the Federation bit by bit, and will keep on boring until the States become mere shadows. If this measure be passed, further steps will have to be taken. I look forward with some curiosity to find out what those steps will be. This is only the thin end of the wedge. We have been told that an income tax is to follow this land tax, and asked if we will support its imposition.. I believe that before very long - probably during next session - we shall be asked to enact an income tax. I propose now to refer to a few clauses of the Bill. First, I do not think it is proper that the Land Tax Commissioner should be under the control of the Minister. The administration of this measure should be conducted absolutely apart from politics. So far as I am aware, the Commissioner of Taxes in every State is uncontrolled by the political head. Clause 4 reads -
There shall be a Commissioner of Taxes, who shall, subject to the control of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.
If the Minister has control of the Commissioner, what power he will have to ruin a man ! The Bill ought to have contained a definition of “improvements.” When men start to write out their assessmentpaper they will be absolutely in a fog. They will be unable to say what are improvements and what are not. They will probably put down as improvements clearing which is not now visible, and so find themselves above the margin of 25 percent, which is allowed. The provision enabling owners to cut up their land ought to be continued until at least the end of the financial year. The provision that a man shall value his own land is absolutely unjust and unwarrantable. It is a cruel position to put an owner in.
– It will be easy enough for any honest man.
– It will not be easy for any man to state the unimproved value of his land when the law will not contain a definition of “ improvements.” For instance, a man may put down as improvements things which will not be allowed by the Commissioner. It is all very fine for my honorable friend to loll on the bench and talk in that way, because he will not have the trouble of filling up a return. I know men who say, “ I am prepared to take the Government valuation whatever it is, and pay a tax rather than have the valuing thrust on my shoulders.” This will place property-owners in a difficult and delicate position. Seeing that the system of self-valuation had to be abandoned in New Zealand, where it could be carried out much more easily, surely, in Australia the Government might have been guided by their experience. I have dealt with the question of mortgagors, who, I repeat, have been treated cruelly and unjustly. A large number of amendments were made in the Bill in another place, and for them the country has to thank the Opposition. They fought the Bill ably ; many of their suggestions were adopted, and the measure is now more workable than it was. But the penal clauses are very harsh indeed. If a man undervalues his land, he can be haled before the High Court ; and if a Judge finds that it is undervalued, the property- will be confiscated, or the owner fined £500 and treble the amount of the tax. Any one who knows anything about land can understand that honest valuers can differ in their valuations to the extent of from 25 to 50 per cent.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest that the land should be valued by impartial Government officers, who understand their business and the tax levied on their valuations. In no other place is an owner called upon to value his land. The great bulk of the clauses in this measure are taken from other Acts, the stringency of which has been modified from time to time ; but, towards the end, we find certain clauses which the Government can proudly claim as their very own, being absolutely original. Clause 67 reads - (1.) Any person who, with intent to defraud, in any return understates the unimproved value of any land, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Who is to say whether a man has acted with intent to defraud or not? According to the Commissioner’s idea, he may have undervalued his land ; but, nevertheless, it may be a perfectly honest valuation. If it is 25 per cent, below what the Commissioner thinks it ought to be, the owner will be guilty of an indictable offence for which the following punishment is provided -
Penalty : Five hundred pounds and an amount equal to treble the amount of the tax which would have been evaded if the value stated in the return had been accepted as the unimproved value of the land; or forfeiture of the land undervalued or any part thereof.
That is only the first of the lovely clauses which the inner consciousness of the AttorneyGeneral, or some member of his party has evolved. Clause 68 reads -
Any person who, by any wilful act default or neglect, or by any fraud art or contrivance whatever, evades or attempts to evade assessment or taxation, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds and treble the amount of the tax payment whereof he has evaded or attempted to evade; or forfeiture of the land in respect of which the offence was committed, or any part thereof.
That is a monstrous provision. If the Bill denned “ improvements,” a man could calculate to a point what the unimproved value was. But it does not indicate what he should consider as improvements. If a man puts down items which are not allowed, he will find himself outside the 25 per cent, margin, and therefore liable to a fine of £500, and treble the amount of the tax or the confiscation of his land. Here is another clause which is the Government’s very own, and of which I am assured they are very proud - (1.) Where, on the conviction of any person under either of the last two preceding sections, the penalty of forfeiture of any of his land has been imposed, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare that the- estate or interest of that person in the land is forfeited to the Commonwealth.
An owner can get no redress in any shape or form. In my opinion, the proposition is simply monstrous. I cannot conceive of a fair-minded honest man supporting it. I cannot understand how men who, in their private affairs are the very soul of honour, bringing in legislation which is politically immoral and dishonest. I hold with Senator Symon and others that if this measure be passed as it is, not only will the fair name of Australia be smirched, but we shall be hampered on every side, shall lose our credit in the Old Country, shall be held up as a dishonest nation; and, instead of attracting immigrants as we desire, we shall find them going away to other countries. I can only trust that when we get into Committee the Government will be prepared to adopt some amendments, in order that the rigour of the tax may be mitigated to some extent, and the fair fame of Australia saved.
– I wish to say a word or two before this Bill goes into Committee. I did not intend to speak at this stage, but since the debate has taken such a peculiar course, some effort is invited from a supporter of the Bill in order to set right the benighted minds of the members of the Opposition. It is rather strange at this lime of day to find the principle of a tax on land values challenged, and such a strenuous effort made to defeat this proposal. It is quite plain that ever since the Labour party came into existence in the politics of Australia, if there was one thing more than another which it took special pains to place before its supporters, it was its determination to impose an effective tax on land values. On the occasion of the last election we had even the assistance of our opponents.
– What does the honorable senator call an effective tax?
– Such a tax as would discourage the holding of large areas, which hamper settlement and keep the country from absorbing that class and that extent of population which it should have. It has been stated frequently during the course of the debate that the result of 13th April did not give the Government a warrant to introduce this legislation. But it is plain that our political enemies never failed to impress upon the electors, in every division in the Commonwealth, that if the Labour party were returned to power they would immediately impose a tax on land values, and encroach upon State Rights. We ought to render thanks for the voluntary efforts made by our opponents in coming to our assistance and making our intentions plain. I can recall the efforts that they made amongst the farmers. The honorable senator who has just sat down moved about amongst that class of the community, and especially impressed upon them the need for rejecting the Labour party’s candidates. In company with his leader, Senator McColl took occasion to tell the farmers that he hoped, through the happy union of the farmers and of the women of the district in which he was speaking, that the Labour party would get its quietus. Mr. Joseph Cook was also present on that occasion, and he expressed the hope that the farmers would stand the Fusion upon its feet, and keep it there for a long time. What happened really, however, was that die farmers stood the Fusion on its head, and determined to keep it in that uncomfortable attitude for a long time. The Labour party took every opportunity of making its position clear. In that effort we had the unstinted assistance of the Fusion party, as well as of the powerful press behind their backs. As I have said, I am thankful for the efforts which those people made to back up our position, so that the electors might know what we meant, and how far we intended to go. The electors knew perfectly well that this proposal was an integral part of our policy, and would be pressed to the front if we secured a majority. They knew that one of our first measures would be a Bill to impose a tax on land values, which would cause the lands of Australia to be thrown open to an extent unknown in the past. This proposal is made with the object of carrying out that policy. It has a two-fold object, and has had for a long time.
– No; a twofold object for a very short time.
– The object of the members of the Labour party in every State Parliament in Australia, as well as in the Federal Parliament, has been to raise revenue by means of a land tax, and at the same time to effect by the same means the breaking up of large estates. The attitude that we have persistently maintained on the floor of this chamber goes to show that we intended to raise taxation by means other than through the Customs House. The record of our voting proves that we endeavoured to cut down to nothing any attempt to raise revenue through the Customs House, and that our ulterior object was to raise revenue from the land, which up to the present has escaped bearing more than a mere moiety of the taxation raised throughout the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator think that a fair moiety is onehalf the value of land?
– I am talking about the share that land taxation bears in the total taxation of the country. I say that it amounts to a mere moiety of the whole, having regard to the value of land. The primary object of this proposal, however, is to insure that there shall be a supply of land at reasonable prices in every State of the Commonwealth.
– There is very little land available in Western Australia, is there ?
– There is more land available in Western Australia, in proportion to its size, than in any other State of the group, but there is also in that young State an indication of a need for some such remedy as this Bill applies. Even in Western Australia, as I shall show later on, we are sorely in need - though not to so large an extent as in the eastern States - of the remedy which this Bill proposes to apply. I will show very effectively before I have finished that such is the case in Western Australia. That problem necessarily involves unimproved land values taxa tion, because we are unable to provide land for settlement by any other means. Of course, other devices, such as closer settlement policies, have been resorted to by the States, relying largely upon the private efforts of the large land-owners, but our experience has clearly shown that those devices have proved hopelessly inadequate. Consequently, the time has arrived in the history of our country when some effective remedy needs to be applied in order to provide land for our land seekers. I am not forgetting the efforts that have been made by State Governments to preserve something like an even balance in the distribution of the public estate. In nearly every other State Acts of Parliament have been passed embodying provisions limiting the area which a person could acquire from the Crown. But at the same time no steps were taken to prevent large estates being acquired by other means. The result has been that, while we have been endeavouring to shut the stable door in one direction, the horses have been simply streaming out at the other end of the stable. The folly of inserting restrictive provisions of the kind I have mentioned in the State Acts, and at the same time not destroying the means by which” land can be accumulated in the hands of a few, is like the folly of a man passing along a country road and carefully shutting the gates behind him, whilst at the same time the fences are broken down on every side. Strong objection has been taken to the provisions of this Bill for the taxing of city lands. It has already been acknowledged that the aim of the Labour party is to secure for the community some portion of the increased value which land has received through the pressure of population. Of course, it is not proposed by this Bill to burst up city properties. “No one would seriously think of such a thing. What is intended is that those blocks of land within our large cities and suburbs that have increased so enormously in value, shall be called upon to hand back a portion of that added value which the expenditure of public money to meet the necessities of the people has conferred.
– Is there any evidence that that added value is being secured by means of this Bill?
– I contend that the Bill represents an effective step in that direction. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the Constitution would not permit any difference to be made between city and country lands.
– That is not what I mean.
– The honorable senator is well acquainted with the Constitution, and he knows that it would not permit us to differentiate between city and country lands.
– The honorable senator’s contention is that the unearned increment can be taken by the State. If so, there should be no exemption under this Bill.
– That is so, and there would not be if it were not for the Constitution.
– The Constitution does not enforce a £5,000 exemption.
– Public policy does.
– The necessity for getting votes does.
– Public policy requires that we should not tax the man with less than £5,000 worth of land. If we had proposed to tax land right down to £1 worth, Senator Millen would have been the first to raise a cry about the iniquity of the Labour party in taxing the man who was putting his land to the best possible use. Now that we propose to draw the line so as to exempt those who are putting the land they hold to its best use, the honorable senator is throwing all sorts of obstacles in our way. We desire that land which is put to its best use shall not be taxed, and that those who hold land in large areas, and prevent its occupation by the people, shall be obliged to return a portion of the increase of value given to it by public expenditure, and the increase of population. I was about to cite an example, the fairness of which Senator Millen, as an old land taxer, must acknowledge. Some time ago a block of land, an acre in extent, was sold in Melbourne, representing part of the estate of the late Mr. Watson. It realized something like £600,000. Will Senator Millen, or any other member of the Senate, contend that, since the establishment of Melbourne, the owner of that land added so much to the value of it by any efforts of his own? Is it not fair that the people should obtain a return of some of the enormous additional value given to that acre of land? It should be remembered that we have not yet reached the ultimate value of lands in our great cities. We know that in London land is valued at as high as £1,000,000 per acre, and there is no reason why, in the course of time, land in Melbourne and in Sydney should not be valued at as high a figure.
Will honorable senators opposite contend that the enormous profit that is being derived by the owners of land who took up city ^ areas in the past, and which must continue to increase as the population increases, is not a fair subject of taxation?
– No one denies that.
– Then, why do not honorable senators agree to vote for the Bill ? Why are they wasting so much of the time of the Senate in pointing out the iniquity of this measure?
– Why does not the honorable senator take his own medicine?
– I am prepared to do so. Consistent with public policy, and in view of the constitutional danger, I do not intend to advocate* a lowering of the exemption which would prevent the man who is prepared to make the best use of land from being given an opportunity to do so. It has been said that this land tax is a class tax. I am here to acknowledge that it is a class tax.
– Hear, hear; that is honest.
– It would otherwise be of no use at all.
– It would not serve its purpose so far as the Labour party is concerned.
– I admit that it is a class tax, but the country has been waiting for years for the imposition of a tax upon the class who hold lands in large areas, and are not putting them to their best use. They are holding these lands away from the people, waiting until the pressure of earth-hunger gives them a value at which they will be satisfied to let them go. This is the class at whom this measure is aimed, and if it does not hit them hard, it will be a very faulty measure indeed. I have some sympathy for those who have come honestly by the land they hold.
– Did not the man who gave £600,000 for the land the honorable senator has just mentioned, come by it honestly ?
– Certainly !
– And yet the honorable senator would now propose to take half the value of it away from him.
– His case is very different from that of people who own land in the country districts. In a vast number of cases large areas of country lands have been piled up under a system of legalized robbery of the public. This has continued whilst large numbers of people have been looking vainly for land in accessible places upon which to settle. Those who have been engaged in the piling up of these large estates have been guilty of nothing short of the confiscation of land, and now when an effort is made to compel them to disgorge a little of the unearned value added to the land, which they acquired by legalized plunder, honorable senators opposite are opposing a measure the introduction of which they should applaud. If I am asked to substantiate anything I have said in this connexion with respect to the legalized plundering that has been going on, by which squatters and large land-holders have been enabled to acquite enormous areas in fee simple, I would refer honorable senators to the statements made by a man of recognised political standing who is still a member of the Federal Parliament. In a pamphlet which was circulated some years ago, this honorable gentleman, specially referring to the state of affairs in Victoria, and a Bill passed by the Victorian Parliament to insure the parcelling out of land, said -
The main objections to this scheme were raised by Messrs. Heales, Brooke, Wilson Gray, and Berry. It was contended that the Bill was framed essentially in the interest of the squatters and wealthy classes, and that a few liberal clauses were thrown in as a sop to the farmers. Whilst the people expected that the squatting tenure was to terminate in 1862, and that thereafter the whole of the Crown lands of the Colony would be thrown open for free pasturage, the Bill proposed to give to the squatters what was virtually a perpetuity of title. If the system was to be continued the runs should have been subdivided and the rent determined by public competition, and not by arbitration as the measure contemplated. Farmers were to buy small allotments whilst squatters were to rent large sections, whereas, the two pursuits - agriculture and pasture - should have been united ; at any rate, one class of men should not be allowed such a great advantage over another. Another objection was that if agricultural lands were not selected within one year after proclamation, they might be put up for sale by auction. According to this arrangement land was only available for free selection during one year; the result would be to enable squatters to buy up whole territories. As to the provision that one person could not select more than 640 acres in a year, that was absolutely futile, as there was nothing to prevent the owner of one allotment from mortgaging it to another, as was done under the Nicholson Act. . . . The Bill was passed through the Assembly, and, strange to relate, received the assent of the Council without amendment, and became law on 18th June, 1862.
The Legislative Council, which is supposed to prevent hasty legislation, rushed this Bill through without a moment’s delay.
– From whom is the honorable senator quoting?
– I proposed to - say later, but it is of no use to keep honorable senators in suspense. I am quoting from a pamphlet written by Sir John Quick, who was a member of the late Fusion Government, and whose views on the subject may be regarded with respect by both friend and enemy. He goes on to say -
This circumstance of itself was extremely suspicious. It can only be accounted for by the supposition that the nine years’ licences were baits too tempting to the squatting majority of the Upper House, and that they had full confidence that the Act, as it had passed the Assembly, could be worked in the interest of their friends. With the passage of this measure two great political organizations became defunct. The Convention party was dissolved, Mr. Wilson Gray leaving Victoria to seek his fortunes in New Zealand. The Victorian Association, more popularly known as the bribing confederacy of the White Hart, adjourned sine die. Their work was done, and well done, the £30,000 spent in debauching constituencies was, for the purposes of the Association, well invested ; the gold of the squatters exercised a more potent influence than the agitation of the Convention or the thunders of the Liberal press.
– What is the date of the pamphlet?
– So far as I can see, it is not dated, but the reference is to a Bill which was passed in 1862. The writer proceeds to deal with this very interesting subject -
The Duffy Land Act thus became an absolute wreck of legislation. Numerous swindles that were perpetrated under it will “never be forgotten or forgiven. Those swindles are still called to remembrance with sorrow and indignation by politicians who know with what wholesale fraud and audacious perjury the people of the Colony and unborn generations were deliberately robbed of nearly one million acres of land, constituting the garden of Victoria. Friends and foes of the O’Shannassy Ministry admitted that the Land Act was a disastrous failure, if not a political crime. The Argus declared that the settlement of the country was not advanced one step by the sales effected, that the stability of the public revenue was seriously impaired, and that immigrants when they arrived hereafter would only come to find the best of the land already alienated. The Ballarat Star expressed its opinion that the lands of the Colony were being locke. up more effectually than ever. “ The speculators,” said that journal (12th September, 1862), “have high o’erleaped the bounds; they have burst through Duffy’s securities, and have, by their agents, obtained possession of a very large portion of the agricultural lands thrown open for selection. The ^22,000 taken at the land sale here on Wednesday were in a very small portion paid by intending cultivators. The 1,600 acres that were alienated in one day at the Land Office have not been purchased by those who mean to use them for themselves, but in the larger number of cases by the agents of squatters who have found ready tools to use for their work.” On the 13th of the same month, the Star said - “ The great land swindle goes on prosperously.
Dummies are a positive drug in the market, and the squatters and their agents carry everything before them.” The Bendigo Advertiser (15th September, 1862), declared - “ The Land Act is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. The wrong men have got the greater part of the first land thrown open, and if the system of gazetting agricultural areas continue after the same prodigal fashion he will be a fortunate farmer who draws an allotment in the future.”
And so on, ending up with a general condemnation of the effort then made to parcel out the public lands of Victoria. I remind honorable senators opposite that these are the views expressed by one of their late leaders.
– Because some land was not obtained honestly, that is no justification for unfairly taxing land that has been obtained honestly.
– It confirms my statement that the parcelling out of lands in this and the other States was carried out by most questionable and discreditable means, and that squatters and their agents strained the law in every way in order to secure possession of land. We are certainly justified in demanding by taxation a portion of the increased value added to those lands. This is the final word of Sir John Quick on the subject -
The advantages of a judicious system of leasing the public lands would have been very great. The State would have retained the national domain as a lasting and unassailable, unpledgable asset which would have gone on increasing in value from year to year.
That was at a time when the honorable gentleman appeared to approve of the present day policy of the Labour party. He goes on to say -
Instead of a few individuals being enriched by the gradual increase in the value of land, the whole community would have been benefited. The rent of land would have been a permanent source of revenue. The vast sum of money sunk in the purchase of freeholds would have been available for the employment of labour and the improvement of waste land. The State would have remained landlord of the soil, and could have applied every acre of it to the best purposes compatible with national interests and national prosperity. The wealthy lower orders would not then have been able to plunder the working classes of their birthright by the despicable aid of fraud, perjury, and subornation of perjury.
What a monstrous and barbaric law must that be under which the splendid land between Melbourne and Sunbury and between Melbourne and Geelong capable of giving homes and existence to a teeming population, is locked up in pastoral solitudes, whilst the farmers have to seek a precarious livelihood in the hot and rainless regions of the north-western plains? Would it not be better to grow sheep in the remote parts of the Colony and encourage agriculture near the sea-board and adjacent to large centres of population? It is impossible to contemplate such enormities and anomalies as these without agreeing wilh Mr. Higginbotham that the dictum of the French writer that property is robbery is absolutely true in regard to land. . . . The landless portion of the population will, in the distant future, begin to inquire here, as they are now inquiring in England, Ireland, and Scotland, by what title those in possession of land obtained that possession.
Unless the sale of land be suspended, and the further integration of large estates be prevented, either by taxation, or by a law prohibiting the ownership or transmission of land beyond a limited area and value, the time will sooner or later come when the working classes of Victoria will awake to an unpleasant sense of their perilous situation. It is a notorious fact, proved by the history of the world, that oppression and poverty accompany the concentration of wealth and the amassing of grand properties in the hands of monopolists. Landlordism is the curse and ruin of every country in which it becomes predominant. The owner of land can dictate terms to his tenantry, and evict them if they refuse to accept those terms; they must have land or starve. This is the cause of anarchy and murder in Ireland. The landlords of Scotland have expelled their tenant peasantry from their ancient glens in the Highlands, and the homes and haunts of human beings have been converted into sheep runs and deer forests. The pauperism, misery, drunkenness, and crime which abound in England, are traceable to the despotism of land monopoly, and the appropriation by landlords of land which in former times belonged to the labouring classes. No political truth is so grim and startling in the uniformity with which it appears from age to age as this - that landlordism and tenancy are ever associated with the pauperism and degradation of an entire population. And this is the condition towards which our free and glorious Colony of Victoria will drift, unless ils advance in that direction be arrested by the courage and wisdom of her statesmen, assisted by the patriotism and foresight of her inhabitants. Let it not then be said that it is too late to save the remainder, or a portion of the public estate. It may be premature to discuss the question of resumption, except to a limited degree, and in special cases, but stern and determined steps should be adopted to suspend the present process of legalized robbery and confiscation of the land of the whole people.
To the sentiments expressed in that volume by Sir John Quick I am prepared to give an unqualified “ Amen.” The statistics of New South Wales and Victoria furnish striking examples of the tendency of land to drift into the hands of a few persons, as anybody who chooses to study them will perceive. It is unfortunate that statistics regarding the other States are not available. But the figures in the case of New South Wales and Victoria afford a reliable indication of how the land in those States is at present held, of how cultivation has proceeded, and of the class of holdings in which the greatest progress has been made in the matter of cultivation. In New South Wales I find that since 1880 the agricultural holdings from 16 acres up to 400 acres have increased by only 51 per cent., whereas the holdings of 400 acres upwards have increased by 132 per cent.
– Then the honorable senator makes 400 acres his arbitrary dividing line?
– The Leader of the Opposition is at liberty to adopt any arbitrary line that he chooses.
– Then I should get different results.
– I am adopting a reasonable standard. I am taking an area which seems to me to represent the limit ^-especially in the coastal districts - of a holding which ought to provide a man with a decent living. I assume that 400 acres is the maximum which can be profitably Worked by an individual, especially in the coastal districts. I find that between 1880 and 1909 the increase in this class of holding - a holding which would be likely to add to our population, and one to which many are attracted by the reason of their small capital - has declined relatively to the increase in the case of larger holdings.
– It has increased rapidly.
– I am sure that Senator Sayers is not satisfied with the rate of increase.
– The reason would be obvious to the honorable senator if he knew anything about the conditions which obtain in New South Wales. Four hundred acres is an absurd basis to adopt.
– I may tell Senator Millen that I purchased some land in New South Wales twenty years ago, and that I know sufficient of the extraordinary lack of management of the public estate there to be able to say that the land for which I paid £8 or £9 an acre is to-day worth only £3 or £4 an acre. I am satisfied that if a land tax had been operative at the time of which I speak, it would have prevented many a man who had invested his earnings in land from absolutely losing them.
– We cannot protect the fool from his folly.
– It is quite plain that in New South Wales during the past twenty-nine years there has been a very slow rate of progress in the matter of the smaller holdings. The large holdings which do not employ the same proportion of labour have increased three times as rapidly.
– 1 will explain that matter later on.
– I look forward to the operation of this tax to bring about a very necessary change. In New South Wales, the proportion of cultivation in the case of holdings ranging from 1 acre to 30 acres, is 21 per cent., whereas the proportion of cultivation in the case of holdings of 10,000 acres and upwards is only a bare 1 per cent. The records also show that in that State 800 persons and corporations own fully half the land alienated, namely, 50,000,000 acres.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– The size of the holdings in New South Wales is another feature of land settlement which does not offer much comfort to any person who studies this subject. Their size has increased from 569 acres in 1880 to 608 acres in 1909. So that, notwithstanding the fluctuations which have occurred, the gradual tendency has been for holdings to grow larger. The percentage of the area under cultivation is only 5 per cent, of the total area alienated. The effect of closer settlement has not been to divide the land into smaller areas, which is the desideratum at which we aim. Rather the tendency has been in the direction of increasing large areas. According to the same authority, the increase in the case of holdings ranging from 1 acre to 400 acres has been .27 per cent. ; in the case of holdings from 400 to 1,000 acres, it has been 86 per cent. ; but in case of holdings of from 1,000 to 10,000 acres, it has been 3.08 per cent. In the Riverina district, which is specially suited for mixed farming-
– That is all the honorable senator knows about it.
– I am prepared to pit by knowledge of farming against that of the honorable senator, notwithstanding his age. I know the Riverina district. I was there quite recently ; and I can say, from my own observation, that it is one of the best portions of New South Wales for mixed farming.
– Millions of acres in Western Riverina were sold for £1 per acre, and to-day they can be bought for 10s. 6d. per acre.
– In the Riverina district, the decrease in the number of holdings of from 1 acre to 400 acres has been even less. According to a statement which has been put before the country by Mr. Watt, the Treasurer of Victoria, land settlement in this State is in an equally deplorable condition. Settlement has run in directions which has made it extremely difficult for the settler to make ends meet.
– The farmers have made fortunes in the Goulburn Valley and elsewhere.
– The large landholders have. But what about the unfortunate settlers who have been driven into the Mallee country? In 1878, the average size of the holdings in Victoria was 338 acres, whereas to-day it is 436 acres. So that thirty years of effort have resulted in an increase in the average size of holdings in this State. In 1887, there were 47,050 holdings in Victoria; and between 1880 and 1909, 5,227,000 acres were alienated. This area was cut up into 16,334 new holdings. Under closer settlement, a further number of 1,295 holdings was added, making a total of 17,629. Thus, to-day, we should naturally expect the agricultural holdings in Victoria to number 64,679 ; whereas they actually total only 56,065. It will thus be seen that, between 1878 and 1909, there has been an actual decline of 8,614 in the number of agricultural holdings in this State. These holdings have been blotted off the face of the landscape by reason of the fact that other areas have been increased in size. I am sure that no senator from Victoria, and least of all Senator Fraser, can hope to extract any comfort from a review of a position of that kind. Although in his own State 8,000 holdings went out of existence during that time, yet he has the extraordinary fortitude to stand up in opposition to a measure which is intended to replace those holdings with their 8,000 occupiers. Under the very system which he has supported, these holdings have been blotted off the landscape, and for years the land has been used for grazing sheep and cattle. Yet he stands up here, and says, “ Everything in the garden is lovely, and there is no cause for complaint.” If he were animated by a desire to help his State, or this country, he would almost have dropped from exhaustion on the floor rather than allow the Bill to be tampered with, or even criticised, during its passage through the Chamber.
– That ought to be an eloquent peroration, but the facts are all wrong.
– Furthermore, whilst the population of Victoria has increased by 420,000 during that period, the land holders have increased in an inverse ratio.Since 1878, the land-holders have been reduced in number from 5.6 per cent, of the population to 4.5 per cent. Although there has been this decline in the very yeomanry of this young and fertile State, yet the honorable senator comes here, and says that he is satisfied that everything is right, and that the Labour party is rascally in its designs regarding the land. We ought to have this champion on our side to-day. Instead of that, he is defending the party which has monopolized the land in the past, and amassed great wealth. Unfortunate men have been evicted time after time, and sent looking for land, through the operations of this ruthless class of cormorants, who are still ruling, and ruining the destiny of this country. The facts cannot be gainsaid. They stand out like Wilson’s Promonotory, whilst this representative of the people “ lags superfluous on the stage,” and opposes a measure which is intended to replace the 8,000 men who were sent about their business. We have heard a great deal about the evil effects which will flow from the enactment of this measure. Seeing that the records stand out in contradiction, it would seem that honorable senators are deaf to almost all kinds of reasoning when they make such a statement. What has happened in New Zealand? Eighteen years ago, when the Ballance Government introduced a measure which closely resembled this one, we had a similar band of Jeremiahs rising in their places, and predicting that all forms of desolation would take place. True to their principles, which we all admit stands to their credit, the Ballance Government persevered and the measure was passed. What has been the result pf its operation? To what is the position of the Dominion due?
– To the expenditure of borrowed money.
– Its position is due to the expenditure of borrowed money, and the development of the frozen meat trade.
– I apprehend that Senator Fraser, as well as other opponents of this Bill, will admit that the prosperity of a country may be gauged by its ability to attract to its areas a larger population and maintain the people in greater comfort than can other countries. If that test be applied to New Zealand, what do we find? Since 1892, when a land tax was put in operation, which it was predicted would bring about disastrous effects, the Dominion has succeeded in attracting no less than 107,441 persons. But what has happened since 189 1 - - that is a year longer - in the Commonwealth, which is thirty times as large as New Zealand and possesses like varieties of climate, and infinitely more arable and fertile land? Only 56,697 persons have been attracted to a country in which no taxation of this kind has been in operation.
– On account of your prohibitory law.
– Will honorable senators on the other side look the position squarely in the face, and admit at once that all this talk about the disastrous results to follow in the wake of this legislation is so much moonshine? Contrast the influx of population to New Zealand with the pitiable effort of Australia, where no land tax has been in existence, to increase her population. As regards the effect on land values, I am afraid that the proposed tax will not be heavy enough to effect the desired result. At all events, the experience of New Zealand does not point in that direction. Unfortunately there are no records in the States to show how the unimproved values of land have fluctuated or what were the aggregate values, but in the case of New Zealand we have information. It shows that whereas the unimproved value of land in 1891 was £75,000,000, in 1909 it was £172,000,000. In other words, the unimproved value which is supposed to be very injuriously affected by a land tax, according to honorable senators opposite, increased over 100 per cent, during the period of its operation. Speaking on 3rd December, 1909, Mr. Beaucamp, the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand, made this statement on the subject of land values in the Dominion -
New Zealand has greatly increased her ob’,.gations in recent years, and while she is well able to faithfully meet engagements, there is no reason why the people should be handicapped in their work by ridiculously big land values.
In the view of this authority one of the drawbacks to the progress of New Zealand is the ridiculously high land values which, according to our honorable friends opposite, will be so injuriously affected in Australia that we shall hardly be able to recognise them. So much for the experience of New Zealand. I do not think that there is much to be gained by elaborating this subject further than to point out what has taken place in New Zealand with a land tax, as opposed to what has taken place in Australia without such a tax. So far as the size of farms is concerned the tendency in Victoria and New South Wales has been to increase. In Victoria the increase in the size of agricultural holdings has been marked, and in New South Wales the tendency is in the same direction. According to Mulhall, the average size of holdings in Canada which, in point of area, is very much smaller than New South Wales and Victoria, is about 115 acres, while in the United States it is about 120 acres. The tendency in the United States and Canada has been in the direction of a gradual reduction in size, whilst in New South Wales and Victoria, where land settlement has been allowed to go unchecked and without any form of adequate regulation, the tendency has been in the opposite direction. Where has the population gone to in the meantime? It has drifted into the cities. At present our cities are congested with population which has been driven from the country ; with the natural result that wages have been affected, and rents raised, to the injury of the previous population. In 1871 Sydney contained 27 per cent, of the population of New South Wales, and, in 1908, 37 per cent.; while in 187 1, Melbourne, contained 28 per cent, of the population of Victoria, and in 1908, 53 per cent., the increase being 37 per cent, in the case of Sydney and 43 per cent, in the case of Melbourne. In 187 1 Brisbane contained 12 per cent, of the population of Queensland, and in 1908 24 per cent. In 1871 Adelaide contained 23 per cent, of the population of South Australia, and in 1908 44 per cent. The increase in this period of 37 years affords a very sad indication of the way in which settlement has proceeded in Australia. It shows very plainly that the population, instead of finding an outlet and a livelihood in the healthier parts of the country, has been forced into the cities to produce great misery and to disadvantage people already there. Professor F. W. Newman, who was, as honorable senators know, a political economist of very high standing, has something very interesting to say on this question. In one of his works he wrote -
If the trades unions could but open their eyes to facts they would see that the constant pouring of population out of the country into the towns (which become sinks of misery) is their great grievance. This not only affords cheaper labour to employers, but fills lodgings, raises rents, pollutes air and water, lowers the standard of living, causes beggary, vice, and disease, and degrades the working classes. The first political aim of the artisans ought to be to effect such a change in the laws of land tenure as shall secure that the country shall feed all its new births, shall be so fully tilled as to make farm products cheap in the town market, after well feeding the producers, and shall facilitate an emptying out of the wholesome density of the towns into the vacant rural areas. All this would tend immeasurably towards the comfort, health, and affluence of the artisans.
That appeal to the artisans of the Old Country has been taken to heart by the artisans of Australia to such an extent that at the present time we have in this Parliament a majority determined to see that the country-side shall be filled, and that the “ new births “ shall not be compelled to leave the land to swell the dense populations of our cities. The intention of the Labour party has always been made perfectly clear. The public have been taken into our confidence. At no time has any attempt been made to deceive them. For a number of years we have been faced by the fact that the poorer class of the community have had to bear an undue burden of taxation. It is quite clear that, as far as the rate of taxation upon the unimproved alue of land is concerned, a person requires to hold a very large estate indeed before he contributes the same proportion of his income as does an ordinary labourer. The ordinary labourer with, say, a wage of 8s, a day - -and he would be lucky if he got that all the year round - would, if he had a family of four, contribute something like £15 a year in taxation. The Customs and Excise revenue averages £2 10s. fid. per head. Honorable senators opposite will hardly say that any particular class in the community pay a disproportionate share of that taxation. We know, as a matter of fact, that stimulants and narcotics, textiles and agricultural produce, yield 70 per cent, of the total Customs receipts, and these commodities are consumed proportionately by the poorer class of the community as well as by the rich.
– Proportionately ?
– A person engaged in ordinary labour receiving 8s. per day, and supporting a family of four, pays, as I have shown, ,£15 per annum in Customs and Excise taxation. Under this tax a person owning £27,500 worth of unimproved, land would not, therefore, pay anything like as much as would be paid by an ordinary labourer getting 8s. per day. The land-owner with £27,500 worth of land, with an exemption of £5,000 worth, would pay on a taxable value of £22,500, and the rate proposed for that is about 2 1/2d., which would yield to the Federal Treasury a tax of £234. The owner of such an estate would, presumedly, look for a return of something like 8 per cent. If we inquire into the average purchase price paid for land in the Commonwealth, we find that it is something in the nature of twelve years’ purchase. On the basis of twelve years’ purchase, we find that an estate of that class would yield £2,200 per annum ; and the taxation on that particular income would be in the proportion of 10.6 per cent. Surely that is a disproportionate contribution for a large land-owner to make to the revenue. He is called upon to pay only about io£ per cent, on his income ; whereas the labourer getting 8s. per day pays at the rate of is per cent. Therefore, I say that this effort to adjust the burden of taxation so as to enable the poorer classes to carry no more than their fair share, and to pile a little more on to the broader backs of those enjoying larger incomes, is a reform that has been too long delayed. Now that it has come, we hope that it will produce beneficent results. I support the measure in its entirety. I cannot see that any improvement could be made in it, except, perhaps, in regard to mortgagees. I believe that the proposals in that respect are a drawback to the measure. A mortgagee always stands to win, no matter whether the seasons are bad or good. No matter what risks are run by persons engaged in a primary industry, the mortgagee always requires the stipulated rate of interest to be paid to him j and that he is not called upon to bear a larger amount of taxation, points to one of the weak features of the measure. Otherwise, I support it cordially, believing that the time has come for a tax to be levied on land which is held in excessive areas.
.- I have listened carefully to Senator Lynch’s speech, and must say that I never heard a weaker argument than that in which he contended that because the average amount of taxation through Customs and Excise is £2 10s. 6d. per annum for every man, woman, and child of the community, therefore a working man with a family of four pays £15 a year. I give Senator Lynch credit for knowing that the basis of his calculation is radically wrong. Take an example: Suppose a working man is earning £3 a week. Is it to be supposed that he pays Customs and Excise duties to the same extent as a man with a salary of £600 a year ? We know, as a matter of fact, that a man with , £600 a year lives up to his income. Such a man, if he entertains, may consume in his household twelve cases of whisky per annum, and he pays on dutiable goods probably £100 a year. Persons with large means contribute more to the revenue than do those with small. The higher a man’s expenses are, the more he pays. It is impossible to strike an average and say that the man with a small income pays as much as the man with a large one. In fact, it is possible for a working man to live in this country and pay no Customs and Excise duties whatever. He does not pay on his bread, nor on his butter, nor on his meat, nor on his tea. The only article on which he may pay some duty is his sugar. If he buys a suit of clothes made from Geelong or Queensland cloth, he pays no Customs duty. Consequently, the honorable senator’s argument is entirely fallacious. I approach the Bill, as several previous speakers have done, with the knowledge that, no matter what facts and arguments may be adduced, honorable senators opposite will not listen to them.
– The honorable senator supported a land tax in Queensland.
– I have always supported the principle of a land tax, but I have never supported a tax based on the principle of this Bill. Moreover, I am pledged by the people who returned me to Parliament to oppose interference by the Federal Government with taxation that should be left to the States, except in case of emergency. It was very well argued by Senator McColl that all prudent Governments reserve some source of revenue for emergencies. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should leave aside land taxation so as to be able to draw upon this source of revenue in case of some such emergency as war or pestilence. We have no such disaster to face now. This tax will, I believe, reduce the value of all land in this country, be the holdings small or large. Whether a man has , £5,000 worth of land or less, the value of his property will be reduced.
– Will the land tax make our lands less fertile in the future?
– I am not a landowner. Fortunately, I do not own an acre of freehold land in the Com monwealth. I, therefore, speak without persona! feeling in this matter. I remind honorable senators that one man may have 100 acres of land which can be used for agricultural purposes within a few miles of Melbourne, and which may be very valuable, whilst another with twenty times the area in one of our remote western districts may not be able to get a living off it.
– In that case it would not be assessed at the same value.
– Men holding 20,000 acres, secured for£1 an acre, might not be able to get as good a living off it as men gel from only 100 acres of good land close to the centre of a large population.
– What a helpless, poor fellow he is who can only secure 20,000 acres at £1 an acre !
– I intend to deal with this matter in my own way, and will not permit the honorable senator to draw me aside. Three years ago we heard statements made about this land taxation.
– We have heard of it for twenty years.
– I speak of the legislation now proposed. I have myself spoken on the subject of land taxation before Senator Henderson came to this country. I do not wish for any more of his’ interjections. This is a very serious question, and should be considered in a rational manner. For the last three years we have been hearing from honorable senators opposite that a land tax was required for the purpose of bursting up big estates. I did not cavil at that. Where estates are so large as to be detrimental to the well-being of the Commonwealth, each being held by one person, steps should be taken to burst them up. But that is not the object of this Bill. We are now told that its object is to raise revenue, and that the revenue derived from it is to be ear-marked for the purpose of defence. No one can pretend that it is necessary to impose taxation in the way here proposed by the Government. Even Senator Lynch has admitted that this measure is likely to lead to a great deal of hardship. It proposes to tax, not merely the unearned increment, but the capital which a man has put into his land. The Government are asking that men should assess the value of their own properties, and in this connexion I refer honorable senators to a district in Queensland known as the Isis. The land in that district was originally covered with a very heavy scrub, and a few years ago nobody wanted it, because of the cost of clearing it, and making it ready for cultivation. When I visited the district recently I found that land there is now worth £40 an acre. How can the owner of land in that district assess its unimproved value? He may feel that he is justified in taking i»to account the amount he has expended in clearing it, and bringing it to its present high state of cultivation, and, if he does, he may be faced with the forfeiture of it under this Bill for having undervalued it. If a man is sent to the district from Victoria . to value land there, and knows nothing of what it has cost the settlers to clear the scrub, how is he to estimate its unimproved value? We are told that it is the object of the Bill to secure for the State the unearned increment in the value of land, but it will be found that we shall be taxing men on what they have spent in clearing and improving the land. It is impossible to say what price the land in the Isis district, and in many other districts of Australia, would realize to-day if it were still in a virgin state. A man may have paid £.1 an acre for land which to-day would fetch £2 per acre in the open market, though it may have been very little improved. The difficulty is that while it would not be so unreasonable to tax that land on the £.1 of unearned increment, it will be taxed on a valuation of ,£2 per acre. We shall also be taxing men who pay £2 per acre for that land to-day on its full value. We shall not be getting at the man who has derived the advantage of the unearned increment, but at the present holder of the land. I do not think that can be said to be a fair proposal. This measure will depreciate the taxable value of all unalienated lands belonging to the different States. Their value will be reduced as well as the value of lands that have been alienated. Men who can get land from the Crown to-day for £1 an acre will, when this tax is imposed, demand that they should get it at a much lower price. There is plenty of land in the interior of Queensland and the other States, with the exception, perhaps, of Victoria, which the owners are willing to sell at the price it cost them, or less. In such cases there is no unearned increment on which to levy this taxation. One of the principal objections to this Bill is that it will apply, not only to what may be regarded as shocking examples of the aggregation of valuable lands that are not being fully utilized, but also to lands that are being fully utilized, and are in the hands of persons with whom we can have no fault to find. I remind the Senate that in nearly every Bill we have passed this session we have encroached upon the sources of revenue available to the State Parliaments. I need mention only the Australian Notes Bill. Under that Bill, we shall take from Queensland from £30,000 to £40,000 a year of revenue at present available to the Government of the State. The Government of a large State like Queensland is forced to spend a great deal of money in the extension of railways and the opening up of its territory, and as a result of our legislation the Governments of the States, whether they be Liberal or Labour Governments, will be forced to impose taxation upon the owners of lands of a less value than £5,000. Mr. Watson, who was at one time Leader of the Labour party in another place, made a speech at Ipswich, in which he stated distinctly that it was not the intention of the Commonwealth Labour Government to tax land of a less unimproved value than £5,000. But I point out that the course taken of encroaching upon the sources of revenue available to the Stale Parliaments will compel them to tax those who own land under £5,000 in value. Senator Stewart has said that if he had his way he would not let an acre of land go untaxed. That is an honest and straightforward statement. There are other members of the same party who hold similar views, though they are not prepared to express them on the floor of the Senate. I say that by this legislation we shall be forcing the State Governments to tax those who hold land ranging in value from £5 to £5,000.
– What is the good of fighting a shadow?
– The honorable senator knows that it is not a shadow, but a reality. It will be the inevitable aftermath of this legislation. Already the proposal has been made by a Labour Government in South Australia, and I believe that similar proposals will be made in the other States. We may be told that we have nothing to do with that, but I contend that we have, if it be shown that it is our legislation that compels the State Parliaments to adopt that course. I believe that every man should pay taxation according to his ability, and on’ that account I regard income taxation as the best form of taxation imposed. In Queensland, with an exemption of £200, a man has to pay taxation on his income from investments in land, bank stock, or any other stock up to is. in the £1, or 5 per cent. The taxation on incomes above that amount, representing personal earnings, is 2J per cent. Very few complain of this taxation, because it is regarded as fair and reasonable, but the taxation proposed in this measure will not apply in the same way at all. It has been repeatedly said that under this Bill we may tax people out of their properties altogether. Honorable senators whose experience is not confined to lands within a few miles of Melbourne, or to a small State like Victoria, and who know something of the land in the interior of the larger States, will know that a landowner who may be considered a wealthy man this year may after two or three bad seasons be in a very different position, and require to borrow money to restock his land. This taxation in such cases will drive the present holders altogether off the land. We have been told many times that there is no land at present available for settlement in Australia. Either the Government are insincere in the statements which their representatives make in this Chamber, or the statements which have been circulated under their authority throughout the world are untrue. I leave honorable senators to decide which is the case. I have here a diagram which is contained in the Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth for 1901-1908. It shows the land which has been sold in Australia, the area which is held under lease, and the land which is either unoccupied or unsold. In the case of Queensland, the area which has been alienated is represented by a black mark, which one would almost require spectacles to see. In Victoria, not quite a half of the Crown lands have been alienated. In South Australia, the area which has been sold is less than that which has been alienated in Queensland. In the Northern Territory scarcely any land has been sold, and in Western Australia even a smaller area has been alienated than has been alienated in Queensland. About one-third of the lands of Tasmania have been sold. From the same source, I propose to give, in round figures, the areas which have been alienated and those which are unalienated. Queensland has already sold 15,000,000 acres, and the Crown still holds 273,000,000 acres. Yet we are told that there is no land available for settlement. When Senator Lynch was affirming that 400 acres represents the maximum area which a man can profitably work, I thought ,that he ought to have been located on the tableland in north Queensland, within 100 miles of the coast. If his existence were dependent upon the produce of 400 acres there, he would inevitably starve. The only use to which that land can be put is cattlerearing; and 1 would like to know how many cattle he would maintain in a dry season upon 400 acres ?
– I was not referring to pastoral land.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the area that is required to support a man and his family. Naturally, this varies according to a variety of circumstances. In a thicklysettled district, which enjoys a fairly large rainfall, a smaller area is required to return a man a livelihood than is required in localities which are remote from a market. In my judgment, the State Governments have committed an error, in that, hitherto, they have offered men insufficient land. I know of individuals in Queensland who settled upon country, and who were able to grow maize and other produce. But, owing to their inaccessibility to market, the cost of transit of their produce deprived them of all chance of success. That has been the experience of many men in Queensland. As a result, they have been obliged to sell their blocks to some persons who have been prepared to hold them until they were made more accessible to market by railway communication. I recollect the time when it was impossible for men to make a living by cattle-rearing upon a fairly well-watered country like that of the lower Burdekin. But to-day they can make a very handsome livelihood there. A similar remark is applicable to the country in the Barron Valley, above Cairns. The disabilities under which the settlers previously laboured are now being rapidly removed. It is true that in certain localities a man may be able to cultivate a small area, but upon the coastal tablelands of Queensland he is abliged to keep cattle; and it is impossible for him to do this in a bad season. My contention is that the land which is suitable for cultivation will sustain a population as the country is developed. During the course of this debate, New Zealand has been held up to’ us as a country which has enacted wise land laws. But I would point out that the New Zealand Act is not nearly so stringent as is the measure under consideration. We all know, too, that the
Government of the Dominion has been pouring immigrants into the country by shiploads every month. This accounts foi her increase of population. The other States are now following her example, and it will be a good thing for Australia when ou:’ population has been doubled. The more people we have here the lighter will fee the taxation per head, and the more work will be available.
– Land monopoly has hitherto prevented an accession of population to Australia.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator has made that interjection, because, in the light of the figures which I am about to present, I intend to ask him how it can be urged that land monopoly exists here? From the Y earBook to which I have already referred, I intend to quote the area of land which has been sold in the different States, the area which is in process of alienation, the area which is held under lease, and the area which is unoccupied. I would further invite the honorable senator to read the pamphlet which has been issued by the Government, and in which he will find an absolute refutation of his statement. In New South Wales 34,000,000 acres have been sold, 16,500,000 acres are in process of alienation, 126,000,000 acres are held under lease or licence, and 22,000,000 acres are unoccupied.
– A considerable area of that is rock.
– Assuming that the 22,000,000 acres consist of rock, there still remain 126,000,000 acres which are held under lease or licence, and are not occupied by monopolists. In Victoria 23,000,000 acres have been sold, 4,500,000 acres are in process of alienation, 16,500,000 acres are held under lease, and 12,000,000 acres are unoccupied. In Tasmania 4,800,000 acres have been sold, 1,500,000 acres are held under lease, and 9,750,000 acres are unoccupied.
– Does the honorable senator know the character of that 9,750,000 acres?
– No, nor does the honorable senator.
– Nobody knows anything but the honorable senator.
– The Chairman of Committees should refrain from interjecting. I have not stated what is the quality of the land. I have merely said that in Tasmania there are large tracts unoccu pied which are fit for cultivation, and which are capable of successfully settling thousands of people if railway communication existed. I refer to the land lying between the east and west coasts of that State to the north of Hobart. I make this statement upon reliable authority. I have not been over the country, nor do I think has the honorable senator.
– Why should the honorable senator say that? I have been over almost every acre of it.
– Only a few persons who have been sent out as explorers by the Government have been over it. Persons who were born there have not seen it, and have made an acknowledgment to that effect.
– The honorable senator should not make a remark of that sort.
– The honorable senator should behave out of the chair as he does when he is in it.
– I do not like the honorable senator to be offensive.
– The honorable senator is at liberty to get up and refute any statement of mine. Of course, if the YearBook is wrong, he knows better than does its compiler. In Queensland, 15,000,000 acres of Crown land have been sold. Surely no one, either here or elsewhere, wants to make the world believe that, with our 273,000,000 acres of unalienated land there is no good land left in that State? Such a suggestion would be ridiculous. We have millions and millions of acres of good land left, and in time it will be settled. I can remember the time when settlement was very sparse. I suppose you could count the settlers by the hundred, but now they can be counted by the thousand. South Australia has sold 8,500,000 acres of land, and has still 102,000,000 acres unalienated. Western Australia has sold 4,500,000 acres of Crown land, and has still 517,000,000 acres unsold. I do not think that even the honorable senators for that State will say that all the Crown land there is of no use.
– Certainly not, but there is a scarcity of land which is accessible.
– A great proportion of this land is not accessible at present, simply for the reason that there is no market near it. The cost of conveying produce would exceed the price which was obtained. It does not follow, however, that it is not good land.
– There is a monopoly of land which is proximate to markets.
– The speeches which have been delivered here, not only to-night, but during last week, would lead any person outside Australia to believe that we have no land of any value left, but that all the land of value is held by monopolists. Surely it is our duty to contradict such statements and prove to the outside world from official sources that there is land available, though I am quite willing to admit that, at present, a large proportion of it is not accessible. A great many of our present settlers took up land which was not accessible either by railway or by road, and had no means to get their produce to market. In regard to taxation, take the case of a municipality. It is the property owners who are taxed to make the streets, and, therefore, the improvements. To a great extent, those who occupy lands to-day have been taxed pretty severely by the local authority. At one time I had a selection in the Barron Valley, which I had to give up owing to my inability to find a person to go on it. One of the reasons why I took that step was because my shire rates amounted to nearly£60 a year. The money was spent in making tracks through scrub and in forming roads. Will any one say that if I had retained that land for sixteen years, and paid the rates, I should not have paid well for the improvements and helped to make a market for those who came afterwards? That is the case with a lot of land. I was not the original selector, but, through force of circumstances, I had to take over the selection.
– Did the honorable senator have a dummy?
– After paying £300 on the selection, I realized that I was losing money year by year. I went to Cairns and Herberton to see if I could find somebody to take it up, but I could not; and so 1 returned it to the Government. That is what has tended to draw people into the towns where higher wages are paid. Although I offered persons the free use of the selection, and the district rate for every acre of scrub which they cleared, and all the products which they raised, no one would accept the terms. To-day, the selection would bring, I suppose, £10,000. That shows the ups and downs of land settlement. It is not always the man who expends his money and labours on a selection who reaps the benefit.
– Ten thousand pounds for 300 acres of land?
– The selection contained an area of 1,280 acres; and to-day it would bring fully that sum. Why ? Because a railway now runs past it, and there is every facility for getting produce to market. Where there were perhaps 100 or 200 settlers, there are to-day some thousands. I maintain that the persons who have that selection, and those who have gone to the district since, have been heavily taxed to make roads and keep the country open. Without the imposition of a land tax, a great number of persons have had a very hard struggle.
– Does the honorable senator know what he is demonstrating?
– I am demonstrating that a man who takes up land has a burden of local taxation to bear, without the Commonwealth Government interfering.
– The honorable senator is demonstrating that he had more money than brains.
– I am not the only person who may have had more money than brains, for Senator Lynch has admitted that he was foolish enough to give £10 an acre for land in New South Wales which is not worth £2 to-day. So that, even on the Ministerial side there are some honorable senators who, although they may possess just as much brains as the Minister does, have not been clever enough to engineer themselves into so good a position as he occupies.
– The only difference is that, whereas I held the baby, the honorable senator dropped it.
– Evidently, I had a little more brains than the honorable senator ; because, when I found that mine was not a paying proposition, I dropped it. I wish to show, from the Government’s own publication, which is now, I suppose, being distributed broadcast in Great Britain, that the position in regard to land monopoly is not half so bad as honorable senators opposite want to make out. What do the Government say in their own book? Referring to Queensland, we read -
Any bond fide intending selector of an Agricultural Selection or a Selection under the Special Selections Act, wishing to inspect land previous to selecting, may apply to the Under Secretary for Public Lands for a certificate in respect of the railway journey to and from the railway station nearest to the land he wishes to inspect. On presentation of this certificate at the railway station at which the journey is to be commenced the usual railway ticket shall be obtainable at half the ordinary fares.
If the intending selector subsequently selectsa Selection of the tenure aforesaid, he will, on application to the Under-Secretary for Public Lands,, receive a refund of the half fare paid by him, and further certificates entitling him to the following concessions, namely : -
A free pass for the carriage by rail of the selector and his family to the railway station nearest to his selection.
A free pass for the carriage by rail of the selector’s ordinary household furniture and effects, with exception of pianofortes and other articles that are not indispensable, agricultural implements, seed, one dray, and one set of harness, to the railway station nearest to his selection.
A reduction of 25 per cent, on the ordinary classification rates for fencing and building material in respect of the carriage of any such material intended for use in improving the selection. This concession will apply also to live stock to a limited extent, and to such other articles as the Minister for Lands may consider it necessary for the selector to use in working his selection.
These concessions must be availed of within six months from the issue to the selector of a licence to occupy the land.
A man can go and inspect the land ; if he does not select, he only pays one half of the fare, and if he selects, he gets all the concessions which I have quoted. In South Australia -
Intending settlers are allowed a rebate of onethird the cost of rail fare to and from the land applied for.
– That is no argument against this land tax.
– I am making these quotations to refute the statement from the other side that there is land monopoly in Australia, and that, therefore, a man cannot get land. With regard to Western Australia, we read -
On production of a certificate signed by the Under-Secretary for Lands, certifying that the applicant is a bond fide selector, and has purchased land from the Government, the following concessions will apply : -
It will be seen that, whereas in Western Australia a man has first to prove his bona fides to be a selector, before he can get a concession, in Queensland he is given a pass at half the ordinary rate, the money being returned if he selects land. He also gets the benefit of the other concessions. According to all we have heard, Victoria is the State in which land monopoly is most rampant.
– Especially in the Western District.
– I do not doubt that for a moment. But one swallow does not make a summer, and there is a way of getting at land monopoly without resort to the means proposed by this Bill, which presses harshly on every land-owner in the community. In another place, Mr. Hedges proposed to omit from the operation of the measure the first cost of land paid to the State Government. His amendment was rejected at the instance of the Ministry. Mr. Mahon, the honorable member for Coolgardie, although he is a Labour member, denounced as immoral the imposition of a tax upon the amount which an owner had originally paid for his land to the Government. There could be no unearned increment in that. Mr. Mahon also said that he believed that a reaction would take place if anything was done in a spirit of revenge. I am sorry to think that a good deal of this legislation has been actuated by such a spirit. There must be a reaction, because we as a people are justly proud of our fair play. We are known for it all the world over. I am sure that when the people realize that this land legislation will do such enormous injury to thousands who do not deserve to be oppressed, the reaction will be severe.
– Does the honorable senator propose to favour especially those who purchased their land from State Governments ?
– While I believe in land taxation, I believe also that it should be imposed by the States, which can discriminate between individual instances.
– Could the Victorian Government carry a Land Tax Bill through the Legislative Council?
– People in the State of Victoria are always howling about their Legislative Council. Let them wipe it out. Their cry has been worn threadbare. If the people of a State are determined to have a certain law passed they will find a way ; and I am satisfied that if a fair land tax were introduced by the State Government they could get it through. But I do not advocate, under any circumstances, a land tax such as is now proposed, because I believe that it would do injury to thousands of people. I am confident that before many years are passed this Bill will have to be repealed.
– That is what was said about the New Zealand land legislation.
– The New Zealand land laws have altered very much. In any case, I have shown previously that the prosperity of New Zealand is due to borrowing money, and bringing immigrants into the country. Sir Julius Vogel, when he was Premier of New Zealand, borrowed £10,000,000. Before that time New Zealand was practically insolvent. Sheep were not worth 6d. a head when the wool was taken off them. But as the result of the new policy an era of prosperity was inaugurated which has continued ever since. What I complain about. is that it is unfair to make one law applicable to land in all States when the circumstances of the different States vary considerably. In Victoria there is a comparatively small territory, and the farms are generally accessible to market. In Queensland conditions are altogether different. We have railways carried out to Charleville, Roma, and Longreach, but no agricultural produce grown there would, under normal circumstances, bear the cost of land carriage. A man would be mad to take up land in the far western districts of Queensland, and expect to be able to compete with growers near the coast. I admit that east of Dalby they are growing wheat, but much of it is used for fodder. When prices are low it would not pay them, but when wheat reaches a certain figure it will pay, though the crop is very uncertain. Most of those who grow wheat are not dependent upon it for a living; they also run cattle and breed horses, in connexion with a certain amount of agriculture. I can remember the time when it was said that the Darling Downs would never keep a large population. But the Downs are being settled very fast now. The people there had great hardships to endure at first, and that must be the case in nearly all newly-settled districts. After a few years, conditions improve, and the settlers become prosperous. These early settlers are the pioneers of whom we hear so much ; though very few of those who use the word have done any pioneering. If the Government could open up an enormous area of land to-morrow, how many people would be fit to settle upon it, and earn their living? I can remember the time when there was free selection before survey in New South Wales. I thought then that that was an excellent piece of legislation. It enabled the men to take up land on easy conditions. But it also led to a great deal of blackmailing. People would select land on the run of a squatter, and would say to him, “ We want so much for this land.” He was compelled to give them their price in order to protect his own stock. No doubt the land laws of Australia are a difficult problem, and have been so for forty or fifty years. Some of the States have been to blame, because instead of surveying land ahead of railway construction, and running their lines through it afterwards, they built railways without having regard to the requirements of selectors. I also admit that there is too much delay in the matter of acquiring land from our Government Departments. But that is an evil which I hope to see rectified. The question that faces us now is whether it is a judicious and proper thing for the Commonwealth to impose land taxation under normal circumstances. I quite admit that if the circumstances were abnormal, no land-owner and no State Government would object to the Commonwealth levying a tax. Let us, however, turn again to the pamphlet issued under the authority of the Minister of External Affairs. It says that in Queensland -
Agricultural farms suitable for dairying and general farming may be acquired in areas up to 1,280 acres.
That is a fair area of land. A man could on such a farm combine agriculture with dairying or cattle raising -
The purchasing price ranges from 10s. per acre upwards.
Will any honorable senator tell me that there is a monopoly in land when a document issued under the authority of the Minister of External Affairs shows that such a farm can be obtained upon such terms ? -
The term is twenty years, and the annual rent one-fortieth of the purchasing price. No interest is charged, and all payments of rent are credited as part of the price. Within five years the selector must fence the land or effect improvements equal to the value of a fence. After five years the freehold may be obtained by the payment of the balance of the purchase money, but until the deed of grant is obtained the land must be continuously occupied by the selector residing personally on it, or by his manager or agent doing so. Those who undertake to personally reside for the first five years have priority.
A long term is given for the payment of the 10s. per acre; no interest is charged, and when the amount is paid the land becomes the property of the selector. Honorable senators will see also that priority is given to the bond fide selector who personally resides on the land. I say that these are fair and reasonable terms, and I. am very pleased that the Government should have published this information for the benefit of members of this Parliament and the people of Great Britain. There is another system of land settlement in operation in the States under which provision is made for perpetual lease selections. A great many people are firm believers in that form of settlement. I quote the following concerning it from this pamphlet
Land open as agricultural farms may also be opened for perpetual leases selection, and the latter mode may be conceded priority of application over the former. The rent for the first period of ten years is r£ per cent, on the price of the land for agricultural farm selection, and the conditions of residence are the same as on an agricultural farm.
Could there be any easier method of acquiring land than by the payment of ii per cent, on IOS. ?
– Order ! I should like to know if the honorable senator intends to connect his remarks with the measure under consideration?
– I think I am doing so in answering the contention from the other side that this .Bill has been introduced to break up monopoly in land. T am trying to show that the statement that there is a monopoly in land in several of the States is not well-founded. If it is proved that land is available for settlement on easy terms, there can be no monopoly in land, and, therefore, no justification for the introduction of this Bill. I may remind you, Sir, that other honorable senators have quoted at length from this pamphlet. Some have quoted from articles which appeared in the Age years ago, and Senator Lynch, only this afternoon, has quoted from a pamphlet published many years ago, without any objection being taken.
– -I asked the honorable senator how he proposed to connect his remarks with the Bill, because he seemed to me to be dealing only with different systems of land selection, and not with the question of land monopoly at all.
– It is necessary that I should refer to the different systems under which land may be obtained in order to show how easily land may be procured by those who wish to settle. Dealing with agricultural homesteads in Queensland the statement is made -
Under this mode of selection the area varied with the value of all the land, viz. : - 160 acres in the case of land valued for agricultural farms at not less than £i per acre; 320 acres in the case of land valued at less than £1, but not less than 15s. per acre; and 640 acres in the case of land valued at less than 15s. per acre. The price of the land is 2s. 6d. per acre, the annual rent 3d. per acre, and the term ten years. Personal residence is required until the land is made freehold, which can be done after five years by the payment of the balance of the purchase money (all payments of rent are credited towards the purchase money), and on proof that the sum expended on improvements on the land has been at the rate of IOS., 5s., or 2s. 6d. per acre respectively, according to the price of the land.
So that under this system it is possible for a settler to get a square mile of land at 2s. 6d. per acre on very easy terms. With such inducements to take up land it is absurd to say that there is land monopoly in the State, and there _is, therefore, no reason for the application of this Bill to the condition of affairs existing in Queensland. The following reference is made to free homesteads -
The area under this mode must not exceed 150 acres. The term is five years, during which period the selector must occupy the land by personally residing on it, and must effect improvements to the value of ros. per acre.
I think that these selections are too small in area, and tend rather to land monopoly. We are further told -
Farmers in Great Britain and elsewhere may arrange to secure areas suitable for general farming, wheat growing, dairying, or other productive purposes prior to departure for Queensland.
Surely that bears out my contention, and I remind honorable senators again that the present Government vouch for the correctness of the statement, as coming from reliable authorities. Where then is the land monopoly in Queensland ? We know that the first intention of honorable senators opposite, in introducing this legislation, was to burst up big estates. No one could cavil at that, where it was shown that the holding of land in large areas was detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth. But when an amendment was moved in another place to give people owning large areas of land an opportunity to subdivide them, it was rejected, and I suppose a similar amendment, if moved, would be rejected here. I ask is that fair or right? Are the Government fair in forcing all this land on the market and so reducing land values throughout the Commonwealth? If the big estates of which we hear so much in the Western Districts of Victoria are forced upon the market, the value of all landed property in their neighbourhood will be reduced, and if men holding small areas of land in the neighbourhood of those estates have mortgaged them, they may find that when the mortgage is released it will be necessary for them to make a new start in life. Surely honorable senators will not contend that it is desirable to bring about such a state of affairs as that? We know that when the great land boom in this State burst, land values everywhere dropped to an extraordinary extent. I hope my prediction may not be realized, but I think the ‘same thing is bound to follow if this Bill becomes law, and we cannot injure one section of the community without injuring the whole. Having shown that the land laws in some of the States are very liberal, and offer every inducement to people to settle on the land, I wish now to refer to the application of this measure to city lands. Senator Lynch has had to admit that in its application to town lands this measure is likely to inflict great hardship on a number of people. I entirely agree with the honorable senator. Wherever it is possible for people who are taxed to pass on the tax to some one else, they will do so. There are a very great many people in Melbourne who are merely, yearly tenants of the properties they hold, and many of these have received notice that at the end of this year their rents will be increased, because of this land taxation. T have spoken to several who have received this notice. When I have said, “Why do you not go somewhere else?” the answer has been that they have been established on their present properties for the last eight or ten years, and, though they might be able to get a place in another district, it would not pay them to lose their business connexion, and they would, therefore, be forced to remain where they were and pay the increased rent. This tax will be passed on to a number of persons keeping accommodation and boarding-houses in Melbourne, and paying under existing conditions a fairly high rent. They will be compelled to pay the tax, and they are certainly not the kind of people the Government intend to tax under this Bill. I can mention a case in Brisbane where a man who made money on one of the goldfields invested it in a block of land in Fortitude Valley. He had to borrow some money to erect buildings upon it, and if he has to pay this taxation, as well as the interest on his mortgage, he will be crippled for life. He is a man with a family, and is getting up in years. Surely it was not intended that this legislation should apply to cases of that kind, and there are tens of thousands of such cases in the Commonwealth ? The Prime Minister said that he expected that a revenue of £1,000,000 would be derived from this taxation. Since then we have had estimates by land valuators and others that the amount derived from it will be more than £3,000,000. Surely we ought not to raise revenue merely for the sake of raising it? We should have some object in view, and if £1,000,000 be sufficient for our purpose we should not impose taxation which will yield more. I believe in a spirit of justice. I hope that even at this late hour the Government will see their way to relieve from the proposed tax those persons whom its imposition will absolutely ruin. Under this Bill the mortgagee will go free, but the mortgagor will be ruined. I do hope that Ministers will not persist in pressing the measure to its legitimate conclusion.
– How is it that a progressive land tax has not ruined thousands in New Zealand ?
– This Bill is far. more drastic than is the New Zealand Act. In the Dominion the principle was adopted of allowing the land-Owner to value his own land. But the futility of doing that was soon apparent, and, consequently, the system was altered. Yet we are not prepared to profit by the experience of the Dominion. We propose to ask land-owners to value their own land, notwithstanding that we know it is almost impossible for two Government valuators to arrive at the
Same valuation. In the great majority of cases there will be a margin of from 30 to 40 per cent, between their appraisements. In these circumstances, is it fair to ask the land-owner to value his own land, and, in case of undervaluation, to forfeit his land ?
– It is intended that the forfeiture provisions of the Bill shall Be exercised only in the case of fraud.
– But, unfortunately, the measure will apply to cases in which no fraud is intended. The Commissioner will have power to haul a land-owner before the Court, and, if a Judge deems that he has undervalued his holding by 25 per cent., he will be empowered to order its forfeiture. I claim that we should seek to do justice to all. The Government have framed a Bill which, even according to some of their own supporters is not without numerous blemishes. Indeed, one of those supporters has described it as “ an immoral and vile measure.” T hope that the Government will endeavour to make it a little more equitable. If they refuse to do so, I believe that the people will, at the earliest possible moment, return to power a Ministry which will see that fair play is done to every citizen of the Commonwealth.
– This Bill is of too much importance for me to allow its second reading to pass without expressing my views upon it. I was very much disappointed with the introductory speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It seemed to me to be a most casual deliverance oh a measure ot such importance. The major portion of his remarks had reference to the bursting up of large estates, and the revenue aspect of the Bill was entirely glossed over. He certainly made no reference to its effect upon city and suburban lands. He described it as a most perfect measure. If it be that, God save us from perfection. I understand that the Government intend to resist any amendments of the Bill. If the measure possesses any of the graces of perfection, that fact is due to the intelligent and searching criticism to which it was subjected by members of the Opposition in another place. Personally, I almost wish that the Opposition had allowed it to pass with all its crudities and iniquities upon its head, instead of endeavouring to make it a workable measure. The people would then have been able to judge of the ability of the Labour party to make laws. If that had been done, it would not have been long before we should have had something like a revolution.
– Nobody is able to make laws except those who sit in opposition to Labour.
-We have been told that the Government have a mandate from the people to pass this Bill. I hold that they received no such mandate.
– The people gave a mandate for the principle which is embodied in the measure.
– They gave no mandate for the passing of a Bill of this character. I believe that the public conscience is moral, and that the people recognise that righteousness alone exalteth a nation. My regret is that any party in the Commonwealth Parliament should be prepared to pass this Bill. I am opposed to every clause in it, because I believe that it is based upon entirely wrong principles. Some time ago, Senator Story interjected that I had been an advocate of the. taxation of unimproved land values. He might have gone further and have said that I am still an advocate of that principle. I have been a consistent and persistent advocate of the taxation of unimproved land values for over twenty-five years.
– And when the honorable senator gets an opportunity to vote for an instalment of the principle, he refuses to do so.
– We shall see whether that instalment is justified. A tax upon unimproved land values is, in every sense, a righteous tax. It is just in principle, and economically sound. It is a tax which it is almost impossible to evade.
– Therefore, the honorable senator should vote for it.
– No; I am not bound by a caucus which shuts my mouth and gags me.
– The honorable senator had better get back to the days of Noah and the ark.
– I doubt whether the Honorary Minister has yet got far away from the ark. I repeat that a tax upon unimproved land values is one which it is almost impossible to evade, and which is easily collectible. Land is the source of all wealth. There can be no production of wealth without land ; although land itself is not wealth.
– What about Murray cod?
– I ask you, sir, whether any honorable senator, in speaking upon an important Bill of this character, should be interrupted by an impertinent interjection of that sort? The VicePresident of the Executive Council is the Leader of the Senate, and he ought to lead it with dignity, and not with flippancy. Such an interjection is unworthy of him. Land is the source of all wealth, although it is not wealth. I quite recognise that, in the absence of labour, it is useless. If another man possessed all the wealth, and I owned all the land, and if I told him to clear off the land, I do not know where he would go. Every man has a right to pay for the use of land.
– How much?
– What it is worth, and no more.
– Has any individual the right ‘ to the unimproved value which is created by the community ?
– If we make a law which permits that sort of thing, we must stand by it until we frame a righteous law.
– That is what we are endeavouring to do.
– No. This Bill merely seeks to perpetuate an iniquity. I do not deny that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to levy direct taxation. Subsection ii. of section 51 of the Constitution distinctly confers that power upon it. But I do not think that this Parliament ought to levy direct taxation until it has exhausted the whole of its Customs and Excise revenue. That is the source of revenue which the States handed over to it; and before we enter the field of direct taxation, the whole of that revenue should be exhausted and found insufficient for our needs. Further, when we resort to direct taxation, it should be for revenue purposes only. Any tax of this kind should be a scientific one, and should be based on sound principles. The tax proposed in this Bill is neither scientific nor based upon sound principles. It is unsound and rotten from start to finish. 1 can understand a tax on land values ; but I cannot understand a dual tax upon those values. Nor do I understand two authorities taxing land values. I fail to see why the Commonwealth should superimpose another tax upon a State land tax, especially for the purpose which has been avowed.
– In some of the States, double land taxation exists to-day.
– I do not understand what the Honorary Minister means. I quite recognise that a tax upon unimproved land values is a good thing, but not a dual tax. I can understand an increased land tax, provided that relief be afforded in some other direction.
– The honorable senator objects to any tax which will make therich man pay.
– My honorable friend says, in effect, “ Tax the other fellow, and let me alone.” I can understand a tax upon unimproved land values if we say to the user of the land, “ We are going to increase your land tax, but we will relieve you of income tax.” I can understand you going further, and saying, “We intend to increase the tax on your land, but we shall relieve you of the taxation on all your implements of trade.” That is a perfectly sound policy to pursue. The more you put taxation on the land the more you should relieve the land-owner from taxation in other directions. What is the fact in regard to this land tax ? Not only is it a progressive tax which is unfair and unscientific in its incidence, but it is added in a progressive way to Customs and Excise duties, income tax, stamp duties, probate duties, and other things. That is what we complain about. This taxation is not in any way fair, but merely a vendetta. This is not a purely taxation measure founded on scientific and just principles. I believe the tax to be born of class hatred. Instead of it being a proper and just taxing measure, it is an abortion - a monstrosity. If I were asked to describe its pedigree, I would say that “ Its dam is Cupidity and its sire Robbery, and it is cradled in Confiscation.” I cannot see that it has a sound feature in its ugly body. It cannot be justified by any economic principle. I do not think that any honorable senator on the other side can quote a writer on political economy who will justify a tax of this character.
– It has the support of Mill and Smith.
– Neither John Stuart Mill nor Adam Smith advocates a progressive tax of this character; they accept taxation on land values, but not taxation of this kind.
– I shall point it out to the honorable senator.
– Some time ago the honorable senator had an opportunity to do so. This is not the end of this kind of taxation, but only the beginning.
– Let us hope so.
– I am very glad to hear the honorable senator make that remark, because, of all the members of the Labour party, he is the most honest in regard to this measure. He says that he does not believe in having any exemption from the land tax; in fact, he wants to see all lands taxed.
– He is not opposed to this Bill, all the same.
– Of course he is not, but he wants to reduce the exemption and increase the tax. This is only a compromise, and a very cunningly devised one, too.
– There is room for improvement.
– Then I take it that the honorable senator will accept reasonable amendments if proposed from this side.
– Will the honorable senator support the removal of the exemption?
– This idea of the exemption was put before the people simply for the purpose of catching votes. They were told, “ It will not touch you, because you have not a sufficient quantity of land; it will only touch the big fellow, so that it will not hurt you.” I take it that there is no intention to leave out the little fellow. Senator Stewart laughs at my observation, because he knows that the little fellow is only left out for the time being.
– I am laughing at the honorable senator’s suspicious nature.
-The little fellow is simply being lulled to sleep by this very specious compromise. What is the reason after all for this taxation? This Bill, or one something like it, was introduced into Parliament last year, and it was accompanied by a memorandum, which has disappeared.
– Oh, it is not necessary now.
– We have a majority now, and do not want a memorandum.
– So it was another specious argument to induce people to swallow the bait? This instructive memorandum starts off with this paragraph -
A population sufficiently large to effectively develop its various resources and defend it from invasion is essential to the progress and even the very existence’ of every country. While this is true of all countries, it is particularly true of Australia. No land has greater natural resources ; none, by reason of geographical situation or by the enormous extent of its coast-line, is so vulnerable to attack.
According to the wording of this document the land tax was required for helping the defence of the country.
– You have to pay for defence.
– Will this measure do anything towards effectively defending the country?
– It will provide the money and the population.
– Will it settle a single family on a waste space in the north or the north-west, where we have no population and no effective defence? The honorable senator knows that it will not do so, so that it is humbug on his part to suggest that it will. It will not do one stroke in the way of defending the country from invasion. I do not wonder that on more mature consideration the memorandum was dropped. Talk about this measure helping to defend the country ! What do you propose to do? You propose to concentrate your population on the land round the coast, extending from Spencer’s Gulf to Queensland, and to leave your great northern territory as much exposed as it is to-day. Yet we are told that the land tax will help to provide for the defence of the country. The claim is absolute nonsense. The memorandum continues -
We cannot hope to escape the common lot of all nations. Sooner or later we shall be compelled to make good our right to hold this great country. That we should do so the more effectively, a large population is imperative. But this must be of the right type and far ampler opportunities for its absorption must be afforded. Our great centres of population are already swollen out of all proportion, more than 36 per cent, of our people live in the six capital cities of the Commonwealth : more than one-half in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants. And this tendency is becoming more marked each year. The people flock to the cities ; they desert the countryside.
Will this land tax induce people to go out into our waste spaces and settle?
– Of course it will.
– No; it will simply accentuate the centralization of population, and do nothing in the way of settling people in sparsely populated parts or helping to effectually defend the country.
– Let us carry the Bill, and then the honorable senator will see.
– For the credit of the Commonwealth, I wish that I had the power to prevent the honorable senator from carrying this Bill. I am sorry that I have not. This precious memorandum proceeds -
In new countries the cultivation of the land is the natural and proper occupation of the people. The substantial prosperity of France, the marvellous progress of Germany, alike, rest upon the firm and endurable basis of land settlement. And if Australia is ever to be a great nation, it must be upon this foundation.
What do honorable senators on the other side want to do? They wish to take a few million acres from certain persons, and put settlers on the lands, still leaving the northern territory unoccupied. The memorandum concludes as follows -
The object of this Bill is to provide an effective remedy by means of a progressive land tax on unimproved values, with an exemption (except in the case of absentees) of , £5,000. It is confidently expected that this will operate as a substantial check on the unproductive and speculative holding of large areas, and will vastly increase the land available for settlement by our own people and by the immigrants whom we wish to encourage, and whom we must have if we are to develop our resources and maintain our position.
I have heard of the hand being held out to immigrants over and over again. The whole production is rubbish, because it is intended, not to put people on the land in distant places, but to settle them close to the cities near the coast. When the Labour Conference was held in Brisbane, in July, 1908, Mr. James Grant, from New South Wales, made this statement -
In New South Wales, under the Local Government Act, big and little estates paid proportionately on the same basis, and no difficulty had been experienced in assessing land value. Mr. Watson had said that the progressive land tax was not for revenue, but for the bursting up of the large estates.
Mr. Holman asked that the exemption should be fixed rigidly, so that there could be complete assurance. The tax was not really a revenueproducing one, and merely revenue derived therefrom would be incidental to the accomplishment of its primary object of breaking up the big estates.
Mr. Hutchison (late Honorary Minister) said that the progressive tax had two objects - first, enabling the big estates to be cut up for closer settlement; and secondly, asking those best able to do so to bear their fair share of taxation.
Mr. Batchelor said it was idle to expect much revenue from a tax of this kind, which, aiming as it did for the promotion of closer settlement, should not have an exemption lower than
I take it that that is the fact. The idea that has been put before the people from start to finish has been that this tax was simply and solely to burst up the large estates. I do not justify the holding of large estates. It is not good for the country to have large blocks of land locked up.
– Yet the honorable senator will vote to encourage that system.
– No, I shall not; but I shall vote to prevent the Commonwealth from doing what it ought not to do, because under our Constitution the control of the lands is left in the hands of the States.
– We are supposed in this Senate to maintain State rights.
– We are here to maintain the rights of the States in regard to their own functions. It is the duty of the States to control their lands. If they want to tax lands they have a right to do so in their own way, and it is not for the Commonwealth Parliament to interfere with them. Honorable senators opposite ought to remember that the value of land is determined largely by the price of produce and the fertility of the soil. Why are land values so high to-day? Simply because we have had good seasons, and the price of produce has been high. But with one or two bad seasons, and wheat down to 2S. 66. a bushel, there will at once be a fall in the value of agricultural land.
– If it is the price of produce that regulates the price of land, what is the value of a vacant piece of land in Collins-street?
– Just what the owner can get for it.
– What determines the price of a block of land that produces only a hoarding?
– I have never seen a piece of land that would produce only a hoarding. I have seen all sorts of seed put into the soil, but never any that would produce a hoarding ! Large estates are being cut up in Australia every day. The reason for it is that, in consequence of good seasons and high prices, the value of land has advanced, and it pays people to cut up rather than to hold large estates. In South Australia there are not 500,000 acres of land held in large estates, and such large estates as there are, are being cut up and disposed of almost every day. There are nearly 50,000 acres on the market at the present time. A large quantity was disposed of only last week.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the introduction of this land tax had something to do with the cutting up?
– Not a bit of it. If the honorable senator had a large estate, and found that it would pay him to cut it up and sell, in order to invest his money to better advantage elsewhere, he would do so. I have before me Bulletin No. 12, issued by the South Australian Department of Intelligence. It says -
Enormous wheat-stacks are at railway stations throughout the State awaiting railage to seaports. Improved scientific farming and the use of fertilisers have revealed enormous tracts of countries as suitable for agriculture that had been regarded as worthless, such as Pinnaroo, where about 602,000 acres have recently been taken up, and this season yielded 800,000 quarters of wheat, valued at about?1,600,000.
There is the whole secret of the matter. There is land that formerly could be used for nothing but a sheep walk; but the introduction of fertilizers has enabled it to be employed for better purposes, and millions of acres have been brought under cultivation.
– This tax would enable more land to be so used.
– This tax is a wonder-worker ! But if the honorable senator had?10,000 worth of land he would be one of the most strenuous opponents of land taxation.
– A tax would not interfere with the fertility of the soil.
– If you put on a land tax, you reduce the value of land to the man who wants to sell.
– The tax will only bring land down to its proper value. The fictitious value will be taken from it, and rightly so. “
– I should like to hear what the honorable senator would have to say if he had anything to sell and a tax had the effect of reducing its value by onehalf. I am inclined to think that he would not be so eager for taxation as he is now. The Bulletin from which 1 have quoted continues -
The success of these hinds, to which a railway has been built, caused the Legislature to authorize last year two other railways to render available for profitable occupation about 3,000,000 acres of similar country. This vast area will be offered for selection as early as possible, and will, when tilled, produce over ^6,000,000 worth of corn yearly. Over a million acres of public lands were allotted last year, and a greater area will be offered during the present year. The wonderful success that has attended farming operations is causing all eyes to be cast landward ; consequently the demand is very great, each section usually having several applicants. The opening of new lands and the large yield has caused much activity in the manufacture of agricultural machinery, and the competence that farmers have attained through a series of prosperous seasons is causing a brisk building trade, many farmers taking suburban residences.
Then this very interesting pamphlet proceeds to say -
The policy of the Government outlined for the next three years is a forward, enterprising one of development. During the last five years about five and a half million acres of land, mostly mallee country like Pinnaroo, has been allotted to 4,000 new settlers : these, with wives and families, will represent at least 12,000 additional persons placed on the land. The States’ rent roll is ^45,000 yearly ; arrears amount only to £442. This” is eloquent evidence of the prosperity of the farmers.
– Is not that evidence in favour of bursting up the large estates?
– These estates do not require any bursting up. The Government of South Australia has opened up its own land, building railways and settling people upon it. Queensland has done the same thing, and any State that had any enterprise would proceed in the same direction. The Bulletin proceeds in a later paragraph -
Railways to open up three million acres of agricultural land are expected to be completed and available for traffic about the middle of 1912. A short line to tap a large fruit and wine area would be opened early next year.
Yet there is a cry that there is no land for the people. Over 3,000,000 acres in this one State have been made available, with railways built for the purpose of opening them up and settling people. It does not seem to me that there is any real sense in the cry to burst up the big estates. Senator Lynch remarked” that in England the difficulty was one of land tenure, but he did not tell us that nearly the whole of the land of England is alienated. What is the case in the Commonwealth? In the whole of Australia only 4.82 per cent, of the land has been sold; 2.02 per cent, is in process of alienation; 41.36 per cent, is leased; and 51.80 per cent. - over one-half of the total land - is altogether unoccupied. Less than 7 per cent, of the land is alienated or in process of alienation. Yet we are told that it is necessary in this vast continent to burst up the big estates. Really, it is pitiable. It is a libel on the Commonwealth to say that the whole of the good land is comprised in 7 per cent. I am not going to be a party to libelling Australia in such a fashion.
– Not all the good land, but that which is ‘accessible, is alienated.
– South Australia is building railways into the lands that have hitherto been inaccessible, and people are taking them up in a spirit of enterprise. We are trying to molly-coddle our young people by keeping them near to the railway lines, instead of encouraging them to go out and show a spirit of pluck and enterprise, as their forefathers did.
– The honorable senator’s forefathers showed a great deal of pluck, did they not?
– Yes; my father was here in 1839. He was one of the first settlers in South Australia. I know the hardships that had to be endured in that early pioneering work. But nowadays some of our leaders want to keep our young people to the coast-line, instead of encouraging them to open up new country.
– The honorable senator’s father did not send his son to the back blocks.
– No; the honorable senator’s- father kept him in the city, and he is there still.
– I should like the honorable senator to justify that statement. I can tell him that at twelve years of age I carried my swag 50 miles into the country.
– Running away from home?
– No, I did not. I set out to earn my own living, because it was necessary that I should do so. I have been working since I was ten years of age, and I intend to go on working.
– How long did the honorable senator stick to the swag?
– As long as it was necessary. W’e are told that the sons of the pioneers have not done this, that, or the other, but they have done very much more than young people of the present day seem inclined to do.
– The pioneers have got nothing. It is the men who came after them who have the land.
– The Government propose to penalize the pioneers and their children for the grit and enterprise they showed in opening up this country. T admire the nien of the early days, and what they did for Australia.
– Most of them are in old men’s homes now.
– Rubbish. These men acquired their lands under the law, and whether the law was good or bad it was made by the representatives of the people.
– Some of them dummied their lands.
– They acquired their lands under the laws existing at the time, and if they were not righteous laws, the fault lies with the people who made them. I say that a man’s just rights should be recognised.
– The bulk of the land to which this Bill will apply in Victoria was secured before we had a representative institution in the State at all.
– I know it was acquired long before the honorable senator was born. In this Bill we are not dealing only with those who have held the land they at present hold since it was first alienated. We might have some claim upon such persons, but we know that lands in Australia have changed hands over and over again. Senator Lynch this afternoon quoted a case of a block of land in Melbourne which was sold not very long ago for £600,000 ; and after a man has paid down £600,000 in hard cash for that land, the Government come along with a Bill to lake half its value away from it.
– No, the honorable senator is drawing the long bow now.
– If that land is taxed up to 6d. in the ,£1, and its revenueproducing capacity is estimated at 5 per cent, on the capital value, we shall, under this Bill, be taking away half its value. That will be the actual effect of this measure.
– We are trying the game of farming on halves.
– I have not quoted from the pamphlet which the honorable senator has issued, but he will find in it a paragraph inviting people io come here from the Old Country to farm on halves.
– Hear, hear; and we wish to make land available for the purpose.
Sena tor VARDON.- Notwithstanding the fact that land may have changed hands over and over again, the last purchaser who may have given the top price for it receives no consideration under this Bill. It is proposed to tax the value out of it in some cases up to 25, 33^, and even 50 per cent. I do not think that is right. I do not believe that this Bill has been designed so much for the bursting up of big estates as for the raising of revenue. 1 say that, because no discrimination is made in the application of the tax. It does not matter where land is situated, whether in a large city or far away in the back-blocks, the tax applies equally to it. It does not matter what use is being made of land. It may be under intense cultivation utilized to the fullest extent of its productive capacity, giving employment and a living to numbers of people, but all that does not count.
– It is exempt if it is used for the erection of a church.
– I notice that cemeteries also are exempt, and if the honorable senator were planted in one of them we should not have these irrelevant interjections. It does not matter whether land is suitable for subdivision, or is impossible of subdivision. All land is dragged in, and the unimproved value alone decides the tax to be placed upon it.
– I thought the honorable senator approved of the taxation of land values?
– I have said so. I believe in a righteous, but not in an unrighteous, tax upon land values, such as this is. I have said that I believe this measure is designed more for the purpose of raising revenue than for the bursting-up of large estates, because it applies equally to country, city, suburban, and pastoral lands. A man may have held pastoral country for years, fighting against drought and difficulties of all sorts, but no account is taken of any of these things ; if the land is considered of taxable value, it must carry this tax. The return derived from an ‘investment in land is not to count, lt is the unimproved value alone, and if that is above £5,000 the property must pay this progressive land tax. An estate may be divided into farms and put to the best possible use, as was shown by a petition presented by Senator Fraser to the Senate only last week, but that does not count. It is natural that we should ask, “ What is likely to be the effect of the application of this tax to city land?” We all know that a very small area of land in Collinsstreet, Bourke-street, George-street, or the main streets of any of our great cities is worth more than £5,000. I ask honorable senators to say how these city lands are to be divided ?
– Is there any reason why land of that value should not pay taxation.
– I have never said that land should not pay taxation. I thought I had made it clear to the honorable senator’s dull comprehension that I am arguing against an unrighteous tax upon land. I want to know how people are to make a better use of city lands than in most cases is already made of them? I can quite understand that in the case of country lands, large areas might be more profitably occupied than they are now, but that cannot be said cif city lands. It will be admitted that there must be concentration at seaports for purposes of commerce. And how is land in our commercial cities to be put to a better use than it is to-day ?
– Are there not plenty of blocks with only hoardings upon them?
– How many blocks in the city of Melbourne have only hoard-, ing* upon them?
– There are scores in Melbourne and the suburbs.
– There are such blocks not more than 100 yards from this building.
– The honorable senator might point to a block where a building has been taken down and a hoarding put up while another is being erected.
There are cases of that kind in every one of our cities. We have adopted a system of Protection as the settled fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. Under this system, we have encouraged men to invest in city land. They have erected factories and other buildings for carrying on their business, and equipped them with up-to-date plant ; and they are employing a very great many persons. But while we give them the benefit of Protection with one hand, the Government propose to take away that benefit with the other by imposing this land tax. It seems to me to be altogether iniquitous. It must inevitably result in an increased cost of production.
– You have said that the tax will depreciate the value of land, and so bring down rents, and that must reduce the cost of production.
– I was in business premises in Collins-street a week or two ago, and the occupier told me that his lease was running out, and that he had applied for a new lease, and his landlord had said, “ I cannot give you a new lease until this land tax is decided. If it is carried, your rent must go up by £200 a year.”
– Does that not destroy the honorable senator’s argument that the effect of the tax will be to bring down the value of land?
– You cannot deal with city lands in the same way as with country lands. I said that the imposition of this tax in the case of country lands will depreciate the value, not only of large estates, but of all landed estates. When a land tax was first imposed in South Australia, I know that the attorney for one of the large estates there saw that a clause was inserted in new leases calling upon the tenant to pay the land tax.
– That cannot be done under this Bill.
– I am aware of that; but the landlord can raise the rent, which comes to the same thing. In that way, we shall be increasing the burden upon the manufacturer, who may be making the very best use of the land he holds ; and I say that we shall be taking’ away from him the benefits extended to him by our system of Protection.
– The honorable senator is only making rash statements.
– The honorable senator will have the right of reply to the debate; and if he can disprove them, I shall be glad to withdraw them. I say that, as the result of this measure, the cost of production will be increased. The local manufacturer will be brought into competition with the manufacturer of other countries where the hours of labour are longer, and the wages paid are lower, than they are in Australia. We must then give him increased protection. This will result in increased prices, which must add to the cost of living, and wages will have to go up proportionately. So this legislation must affect us all round. I take the case of wholesale houses having branches in all the capitals. Many of these have found it necessary to purchase land on which to carry on their business in the different capitals. Under the State land taxation, these properties would not be aggregated, and would have to pay only the State taxin each State; but, under this Bill, because they are necessary for carrying on the business of the firm, we propose to aggregate the values of the properties held by the firm in the different States, and to impose this progressive land tax upon the aggregated value. The tax levied in this way will cripple business enterprise. It is a first step towards land nationalization ; but it is an illegitimate step taken in a wrong direction.
– It is a step all the same.
– I remind the honorable senator that it is possible to make a side step, a downward step, or a step backwards ; and what we ought to do is to make a step forwards and in the right direction. What will those people do who have mortgages upon their lands?
– This Bill will help them to pay off their mortgages.
– It will destroy the equity of redemption. It will cripple production, because the mortgagee will immediately reduce the amount which he has lent upon mortgage. The land-holder will be called upon to pay the whole of this taxation. The man who possesses enterprise, and who has invested his money in land, will thus be specially penalized. An individual may invest £100,000 in land, and use it to the best possible advantage. Yet he will be taxed, whilst the man who invests .a similar amount in Government stock, will be able to get a return from his money without being penalized in any way.
– Does the honorable senator wish him to be taxed, too?
– He has as much right to bear his share of taxation as has any other man.
– All right, we will see that he is taxed if the honorable senator wishes us to do so.
– I do not doubt the capacity of the Government for evil in that direction.
– The honorable senator seems to be grumbling about it.
– I am grumbling because the Government are endeavouring to do things in the wrong way. They do not propose to discriminate between individuals in the imposition of this tax. I have here a letter which will disclose the effect of this Bill upon land which happens to be entailed. I do not propose to givethe name of the testator, or the situation of the estate. But the attorneys in that estate write me as follows - -
Dear Sir, - We desire to bring prominently before your notice the position of entailed estates in relation to the proposed Federal land tax, and we trust that in me event of the measure being passed we may count upon your active influence, and that, if necessary, you will move to protect beneficiaries in estates similar to the one we represent. To put the position clearly before you, we beg to state that we are trustees in the estate of the late , who deceased in 1867. He left an estate consisting chiefly of some 7,000 acres of land at in the hands of trustees for the benefit of his children and grandchildren, and devised that the land should not be sold until all of his children had died. In the interval it was to be leased and the rentals to be divided amongst the beneficiaries. Since his decease the land has been let in small holdings, and has supported about twenty different families, besides considerably assisting to support seven beneficiaries, whose families consist of about thirty members. We think it may be fairly asserted that from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty persons are being materially assisted in obtaining a living by the land in question. The ostensible reason for the land lax 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.
Yet this Bill will afford no relief in cases of that kind.
– Yes. Clause 32 will afford relief.
– It will not. In another instance a charitable trust has been established in South Australia for the purpose of benefiting, in any way that th« trustees may deem expedient, persons above the labouring class who may be in poor or reduced circumstances. I do not know of any persons who are more helpless when they become poverty stricken than are those of this class. In the case of which I am speaking, certain premises are let to tenants, and because those tenants make some profits out of the use of the land, it has been held that it is liable to taxation. When the Bill becomes operative, the trust will be obliged to cut off thirty-three or thirty-four pensioners, simply because it will have to pay land tax. I know of another case in ‘ which a trust has been founded for the education of students for the Ministry. Because the revenue which supports that trust is derived from city property which ‘is let, that property will have to pay the proposed tax. The result will probably be a diminution of £100 a year in the revenue of the trust. Still another trust has been established for the purpose of sending missionaries into the country to preach the Gospel. Under this. Bill, it will have to pay a considerable land tax. It seems to me that some discrimination ought to be exercised whereby trusts with such objects in view should be exempt from the tax.
– Clause 32 will afford them relief.
– It will not. The South Australian Government tax these properties on the ground that somebody is making a profit out of the use of the premises, and as far as I can see, this Bill will perpetuate that injustice. Innumerable cases of hardship have been quoted here again and again, but no suggestion has been made that they will be remedied. I shall not discuss the clauses of the measure at the present stage, but in Committee I shall point out some injustices which the Bill will inflict, and if the Government decline to permit us to amend it by crossing a “ t,” or dotting an “ i,” they must accept responsibility for their action. I regard the Bill as one which is unrighteous in principle, which is unjust in its incidence, and which will operate harshly, especially in the case of city lands. For these reasons, I intend to oppose its second reading - indeed, I shall oppose it at every stage.
– I do not know whether the Government are willing to consent to an adjournment of the debate.
– No; we must finish the discussion to-night. The honorable senator can say what he wishes to say in Committee.
– There are several matters to which I desire to direct attention. The first is that, to my mind, the Bill violates the Constitution, under which there is a sort of agreement that until this Parliament has exhausted all methods of indirect taxation it will not resort to direct taxation to add to the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– Where is that agreement to be found?
– In a book called “ 7’/ie Coming Commonwealth:’ by Robert Randolph Garran, B.A., which was published in 1897, we have probably the best summary of what a Commonwealth Constitution ought to be. That volume was published in a comparatively cheap form. A copy of it was forwarded to every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth, and it was used largely as. a text-book in the framing of the Constitution. I venture to say that nearly all the arguments which were advanced by the newspapers in favour of Federation were founded upon it. Upon page 67 of that publication the writer, in arguing what the Commonwealth should do, says -
It has exclusive control of Customs, the States being forbidden to levy import or export duties; and it is from this source that the bulk of the Federal revenue is derived.
After citing the cases of Germany, Austria, and other countries which the Acting Prime Minister has cited, the author says, on page 158-
We have also seen that the Federal Government ought to have power to raise revenue by any kind of taxation, direct or indirect; that, as regards direct taxes, the powers of the Federal and provincial Governments must be concurrent, though the Federal Government is not likely to resort to direct taxation except in an emergency ; but that the power to raise revenue by Customs and Excise must be given exclusively to the Federal Government, and forbidden to the States.
That exactly follows on the lines of the American Constitution. I am only a layman, but if my honorable friends will study the development of the American law they will find that where it was found necessary for the establishment of the national safety they were allowed to impose direct taxation, but when later the national stability was fully established the Supreme Court said that they had no right then to interfere with direct taxation. That was the text-book which went into every little newspaper office throughout Australia, and from which I venture to say those newspapers preached the doctrine that the people could afford to federate because the Federation would have the right to levy indirect taxation, and only in a national emergency would it deal with direct taxation such as a land or income tax. If my honorable friends want to alter the bargain let them say to the people of Australia plainly and plumply, “ We propose to alter the bargain under which you federated.” But do not let them hedge their taxation proposal round with stories that they want to break up estates or need more revenue and so forth. What do they propose to do now? Amongst other things they told the people before Federation that one of the_ most urgent things to be done was to separate the State and Federal finances. They pointed out how in Canada, America, Germany, and Switzerland that separation was made as soon as possible. It was represented that at the end of ten years, that is, after the expiration of the Braddon “blot,” the State and Federal finances could be separated, but what do the Government propose now to do? They say, “ We want to separate the finances. We want money.” That is one story. At the same time they give the States about £6,000,000 a year out of the revenue from indirect taxation, and then come to us and say that they want one or two or three millions, or whatever they can get by direct taxation. I venture to say that never before were the State and Commonwealth finances mixed up more perniciously than is proposed in this measure. The Government are asking the States to give the Commonwealth out of the field of their taxation a million, or, as Senator McGregor said, two or three millions, while at the same time the Commonwealth is giving the States money out of the indirect taxation. That is not what was contemplated. The idea prior to Federation was that as soon as possible the State and Federal finances should be separated, but the Government are proceeding in exactly the opposite direction. Not only are they not attempting to separate the finances, but they are mixing them up in the most awkward way possible. That is an arrangement which I think must lead to very awkward complications in the not far distant future. I have proved the falsity of the argument as regards raising revenue by showing that it is intended to give away far more money than is to be raised under this measure. Amongst the other argu ments used in favour of this land tax was one used by Mr. Fisher in the wonderful manifesto which was issued at the time of the general election, being signed by that gentleman, and countersigned by Mr. Watkins, and which I admit has been repudiated by several members of the Labour party. It pointed out that it was unreasonable that 50s. per head should he raised by indirect taxation, and practically nothing by direct taxation. I ask my honorable friends what that meant ? Was it a promise to the people that those who paid indirect taxation should be relieved of a certain amount, and that that amount should be raised by direct taxation in the form of a land tax? Mr. Fisher said that 50s. per head was too much to raise by indirect taxation, and that, therefore, they must have direct taxation. I ask my honorable friends opposite, “ Is there any proposal before the country to reduce the 50s. per head? No. All that they propose to do is to increase the taxation. I think it was Kipling who wrote about “ flannelled fools and muddied oafs “ in connexion with sport. I venture to remark, with all due respect, to my honorable friends on the other side, that there are “flannelled fools and muddied oafs “ in connexion with Australian and national finance. It has been most marvellous how nearly every one of them, except probably a Minister and an offsider, has remained away while this question has been under discussion. They have stopped out of the chamber so that they could not hear, or so that they would not interject, while honorable senators on this side were criticising the Government policy.
– Will you look at your own benches and say how” many senators are listening to you? Two.
– My honorable friends on this side agree with me, I am not criticising them. I venture to say that if I made any criticisms I am entitled to be heard from the other side. I am pointing out that the Government have not attempted in any way to meet the point made by Mr. Fisher in his speech at Gympie in 1909, when he argued that you must reduce the indirect taxation of 50s. per head, and impose a direct tax in order to afford that relief. No such proposal has been made. The Government do not say, “ We are going to take the taxation off somebody else,” but they say, “ There is somebody to be taxed, and we are going to tax him.”-
They remind me very much of Mrs. Browning’s lover who, when referring to the man who wanted the girl’s heart, said - …… do you know,
You have asked for this wonderful thing As a child might have asked for a toy ;
Demanding what others have died to win With the reckless dash of a boy.
The Government came down here without knowing whether this Bill will raise one or two or three millions. They ask us to give them authority to start a machine which may be a machine of ordinary taxation or a machine of oppression, and when we say that it may produce a revenue of two millions, the Minister merely says, “ Oh, if it produces not one but two or three or four millions, all the better.” That is the sort of finance that we get from the Labour party which was supposed to be high above anything the ordinary deadly Conservative could think of. They do not care whether the land tax will produce one or two or three millions. All that they say is, “ The more it produces, the better.” May I remind them that far greater statesmen than even my friend Senator McGregor have said that the greatest statesmanship so far as finance is concerned is that which will take the least possible amount out of the pockets of the people in order to carry on the business of the country. On one occasion when Senator Pearce was speaking on the land tax proposal from this side of the chamber. I asked, “ How much do you expect to get out of the tax?” and he replied, “£1,000,000.” The Government have stuck to that estimate ever since, but they have never made a serious effort to find how much the tax will actually realize. Senator McGregor simply says that if they get more than £1,000,000, so much the better. I venture to say that on both the points to which I have referred the Government have made a serious mistake in the eyes of the country. They have shown that they are absolutely incapable of dealing with the proposition which they are handling. I recognise that hard cases make bad law, and am not disposed to discuss whether Jones, Brown, or Robinson will be harshly dealt with under this Bill. It is equally true, however, that bad laws make hard cases. I shall deal with the subject from the broadest possible point of view - as it applies not to individuals, but to the actual government of the country. Probably my honorable friends have not realized that when they deal with land taxation they are dealing with a tremendous number of very different instances. For instance, there are land taxes in Victoria and New South Wales. There is an idea that the proceeds of those taxes will not be seriously affected by this Bill. But I doubt that statement. The last available figures show that the New South Wales land tax produced £80,794; but the land rates in New South, Wales produced £800,000. In Victoria the land tax produced only £85,559;butthe land rates produced £902,741. Queensland has no land tax. She is regarded as a perfect horror by supporters of this Bill. But the land rates of Queensland produced £436,344, which is more than half the produce of the land rates of New South Wales. Seeing that Queensland has only one-third of the population of that State, she is, I think, not doing too badly. In South Australia the land tax produced £92,158, and the land rates produced £187,000. In Western Australia the land tax produced £33,120, and the land rates £139,228. Tasmania - which, after all, is not so much behind in this matter as some people would have us believe, considering that she is only a fly-speck on the map - produced land tax to the extent of £59,162. and land rates to the amount of £59,072. I quote those figures to show that, while it may appear that a State like Queensland, for instance, is not taxing people on the land as they should be taxed, in actual fact it is taxing them more than any other State in Australia. Take the ordinary land rates - not the water rates, or any other rates . Take the towns and cities of Queensland - Ipswich, Bowen, Blackall, Cairns, Bundaberg, Charleville, Charters Towers, Mackay. The land rates, on an unimproved value basis, yield from 5d. to 81/2d. in the £1. We find a shire like the Bourke, which consists of 32,000 square miles, levying land rates at 2d. in the £1. Cloncurry, with 24,710 square miles, levies land rates of 3d., and, in some cases, 31/2d. in the £1. Daintree, with 13,446 square miles, levies land rates of from 3d. to 2d. in the £1. In a number of the small shires the rates range from 3d. to as high as 8d. in the £1. In the larger shires the rates run from1/2d. up to 3d. in the £1 on the unimproved value of the land. I should like honorable senators to understand that whatever may be the effect of this tax in Victoria, Tasmania, or South Australia, the effect of it in Queensland, where the local bodies already levy land rates, will be to strike a heavy blow at the local govern- ment system that is at present so effective for good in that State. It may be said that we require to deal with the question of breaking up the large estates. I reply that in Queensland we have already dealt with that question. In 1886 an Act was passed dealing with the unimproved value of land. In 1887 the Legislative Assembly passed a land tax. It was thrown out by the Legislative Council. In 1905 a Bill was passed dealing with land monopoly. It was expressly called the Land Monopoly Tax Bill. I venture to say that it dealt with the question as the Commonwealth Parliament cannot deal with it. It dealt with land held in large areas and not used for the best purposes. The Legislative Council threw out the Bill. Thereupon the people of Queensland did not set up a howl for the Federal Government to deal with the matter. They had three general elections in three years. The Constitution was altered, and now it is the law of Queensland that if the Legislative Assembly passes any law twice within a given time, it becomes the law of the State, whether the Legislative Council likes it or not. That, so far as Queensland is concerned, is the answer to the charge that the Legislative Councils prevent effective land tax legislation from being passed. In 1909 the Federal Government, of which Mr. Fisher was the head, introduced a Land Tax Bill, of which I have a copy before me. I propose to direct attention to the way in which that measure was introduced. It was read a first time on 26th May, 1909. I should like honorable senators to listen to the memorandum attached to it. Not a single word was then said about the necessity of raising revenue. The memorandum read -
A population sufficiently large to effectively develop its various resources and defend it from invasion is essential to the progress and even the very existence of every country. While this is true of all countries, it is particularly true of Australia. No land has greater natural resources; none, by reason of geographical situation or by the enormous extent of its coast-line, is so vulnerable to attack.
We cannot hope to escape the common lot of all nations. Sooner or later we shall be compelled to make good our right to hold this great country. That we should do so the more effectively, a large population is imperative. But this must be of the right type and far ampler opportunities for its absorption must be afforded. Our great centres of population are already swollen out of all proportion, more than 36 per cent, or our people live in the six capital cities of the Commonwealth ; more than one-half in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants. And this tendency is becoming more marked each year. The people flock to the cities; they desert the countryside.
In a country like Australia, where there are vast areas of fertile land with an adequate rainfall and a good climate - and where so large a portion of the national wealth is derived from primary production - the percentage of the population engaged in rural occupations ought to be exceptionally high. But this is far from being the case. The percentage dwindled from 17. r in 1871 to 12.8 in 1891, and though it increased slightly during the next decade, it does not, so far as can bc ascertained, exceed 14. 1, the point at which it stood in 1901.
The full significance of these figures can be better appreciated when we compare them with those of other countries. In France the percentage of those engaged in rural industries is 21.2; in Germany, in spite of the phenomenal extent of manufactures, it is 23.06. The joint area of these countries does not exceed that of Queensland.
Why pick out Queensland ? Why not take the whole of Australia, when instituting the comparison ?
The density of their population is enormously greater, their manufacturing industries infinitely more varied and more extensive than ours. Yet the proportion of their population settled upon the land is more than 50 per cent, greater than ours.
In new countries the cultivation of the land is the natural and proper occupation of the people. The substantial prosperity of France, the marvellous progress of Germany, alike rest upon the firm and endurable basis of land settlement. And if Australia is ever to be a great nation it must be upon this foundation.
Our need is for men - of our own or kindred races - to settle upon our lands to further develop our great resources, to create new wealth. But such men, although there is happily no scarcity of them, will not go half-way round the world without some positive assurance that facilities for settlement upon suitable lands are provided. And at present these cannot be given.
This statement was published in May, 1909. We have had another Government publication issued since, without any alteration in the land laws, which tells quite a different tale. Again -
Despite some recent attempts in various States of the Commonwealth to promote closer settlement, it is still true that land monopoly is the curse of Australia. Relatively to the enormous area of its fertile lands and the size of its population, land monopoly exists here to a greater extent than in any country in the world. In spite of the resumption of large estates by the State Governments for purposes of closer settlement these estates are growing both in number and size. In New South Wales, for example, estates of 5,000 acres and over have during the period from 1901-1908 increased very considerably.
So far as New South Wales is concerned, only one class of settlement is picked out. It is true that in the case of that class of settlement the areas have increased in size, but those who compiled this statement carefully avoided mentioning the fact that the number in the larger class of settlement showed a decrease, and the number of small settlers had very largely increased -
In spite of closer settlement schemes the area under cultivation in the Commonwealth was actually less in 1907-8 than in 1904-5.
These are not statements made by me, or taken from a report by an ordinary Government official. They are included in a memorandum attached to a Bill which was placed before this Parliament. That was the Bill which honorable senators opposite put before the electors of Australia as embodying their land tax proposals. Now, let us see what truth there is in some of these statements. We are told that the area under cultivation was actually less in 1907-8 than it was in 1904-5, but it is not explained that it was greater in 1906-7, and in 1905-6, and that, whether we take New South Wales or the whole Commonwealth in the last year for which the figures were available, the area under cultivation was greater than it had ever been in the history of Australia. One or two items are picked out for comparison, and, as in connexion with another measure, the practice adopted by some of our friends of comparing “ liquid “ sugar with the best sugar has been adopted. Yet we are asked to accept the conclusions based upon such comparisons as final and definite. I say plainly that these statements were made to trap the people, or to trap members of this Parliament. This further statement was made -
The evil is too firmly rooted to be cured hy the resumption of individual estates by the States Governments. At the best, the effect of such attempts is almost unnoticeable. And there is good reason to believe that in general these resumptions increase the value of surrounding estates, but intensifying the evil sought to be remedied. It is not by such means that land monopoly can be successfully attacked.
I again remind the Senate that I am quoting from a memorandum issued in connexion with the Land Tax Assessment Bill of 1909, and, so far, there is not a single word in it about the necessity of raising revenue. It goes on to say -
We must strike at the root of the evil. Legislation is called for that will neither be local in its operation nor temporary in its effects. It is necessary to provide facilities, not merely for a few hundreds of families, and for a season only, but for a great and ever-increasing stream of suitable immigrants. As things stand now, to invite such men is a hollow mockery : to indulge in talk about immigration the merest farce. It is well known that we cannot provide land of a suitable kind for our own fellow citizens.
The object of this Bill is to provide an effective remedy by means of a progressive land tax on unimproved values, with an exemption (except in the case of absentees) of ^5,000. It is confidently expected that that will operate as a substantial check on the unproductive and speculative holding of large areas, and will vastly increase the land available for settlement by our own people and by the immigrants whom we wish to encourage, and whom we must have if we are to develop our resources and maintain our position.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council, by interjection, said that the Government expected to derive a revenue of £1,000,000 from this taxation, and when some honorable senators on this side said that the revenue derived from it was more likely to be £2,500,000, Senator McGregor said, “The more the better.” I ask the honorable senator now to say whether this Bill of 1909, which is referred to in the memorandum which I have quoted, is not the Bill upon which honorable senators opposite went to the country ? The honorable senator knows that it is. It is certainly the Bill which I discussed when before the electors, as I dealt with the matter solely from the settlement point of view. I admit that the people voted in favour of the measure because they regarded it as a Bill intended to promote settlement. Now we find that it is not a land settlement Bill, but a revenue Bill - a Bill to extract money from the holders of land, and whether it is to extract £1,000,000, £2.000,000, or £3,000,000 apparently does not matter. I understand that the Government absolutely refuse to give me an opportunity to continue my speech at the next sitting of the Senate, and as I have gone to some little trouble to prepare it, I am forced to go on with it now. Dealing with the proposal from the point of view of the experience in New Zealand, I intend first of all to quote an expression of opinion by Mr. Thorn. He is not one of those onehorse sort of chaps whose opinion does not amount to anything. He was the delegate appointed by the New Zealand Labour authorities to represent them at an International Conference to be held at Portsmouth. After he arrived in Melbourne, I find that on 22nd May, 1909, speaking at the Trades Hall, of the effect of the land tax in New Zealand, he is reported by the Melbourne Age to have said -
The result of their much vaunted land legislation was that they have now to fight twenty-nine little Tory land occupiers, and where they formerly had one big Tory land-owner using the land as a means of exploiting the public of the profits, they now have twenty-nine small Tory land-owners.
They were going lo say to the Tory land-owner, “ You are too costly; we are going to shift you, and we are going to appropriate your land, and we are going, as a Slate, to use that land just as we use our railways.” They had as many unemployed in New Zealand in proportion to the population as they had in Melbourne.
His statement appears somewhat differently in the Argus, in which newspaper what he had to say is reported in this way -
The result of this progressive legislation was that, where the men in the towns had to fight one big Tory land-owner who was exploiting the people, they had now to fight twenty-nine little Tory land-owners. (Laughter.) The workers and Socialists of New Zealand now saw that it did not matter whether they were robbed by one man or twenty-nine.
There was a Mr. S. Barker, who moved a vote of thanks to the gentleman who said that. On 25th June, 1910, there appeared in the Melbourne Argus an account of an interview with a Mr. Nathan, who is described as -
A leading New Zealand merchant, who has been for many years closely associated wilh the organization of the Seddon-Ward party. He has long held (lie office of Honorary Treasurer to the Liberal and Labour Federation of the Dominion, besides taking an active part in the work of the Chamber of Commerce. His business and political connexions enabled him to speak with some authority on New Zealand affairs.
I do not intend to weary honorable senators by reading the whole of the interview, but I must quote this portion of it. Mr. Nathan said -
Sir Joseph Ward has also intimated that the new penal impost under the graduated land tax will have to be repealed. This heavy tax on both town and country estates over a certain value has only recently come into force. But the nature of its effects is obvious. Propertyowners are quite willing to bear their share of our expenses of government, and even of the cost of our humanitarian experiments. It is not solely, or even mainly, for selfish reasons that the heavy graduation is opposed. The real reason is that it operates to restrict enterprise. Land and buildings of considerable value are required for almost every industrial undertaking, for woollen mills, for jam factories, for warehouses, arid so on. Penalizing the ownership of such land and buildings is penalizing the trade and industry by which the country lives. What we are feeling already in New Zealand is less the immediate burden of taxation than the fear which it has created. The policy is bad, because it has made every would-be investor in industrial and pastoral undertakings afraid that yet another turn may be given to the screw - that in response to extremist demands at some crucial point in the history of a Ministry or party the penalty may be increased or that the level at which it begins to be enforced may be lowered. Even as it is, every industry in the country, save mining and shipping, which are unaffected by the tax, is being hit.
This is the statement of the treasurer of the Labour and Liberal Federation. He went on to say -
No one is prepared to launch out and put up a costly factory or warehouse on land which may have to bear so heavy a burden. As a natural consequence, there is stagnation in spite of the recovery from the recent tightness of money. Though the bank returns are showing steady accumulation, and the prospects for the year are good, there is no movement to extend industry.
Then the interviewer is reported to have said -
If Sir Joseph Ward repeals the Penal Tax, and “ goes slow “ on Labour legislation, that will come all right?
Mr. Nathan replied ;
I am confident it will. The Government has made a wise change in its closer settlement policy, lt found that the compulsory purchase system was really raising prices against itself, so now it is prepared to finance voluntary subdivision of estates. It will advance the money to a group of purchasers, and let them deal directly with the owner. When the owner receives his purchase money, we should, of course, like to be able to offer him sufficient inducement to re-invest it in New Zealand, and it is because the penal land tax lessens the inducement that many of us dislike it. At the present moment any company or individual with anything over jo39’999 would be foolish to buy further land, or property, or shares in any undertaking requiring land, as he would immediately be subject to a graduated tax, and also to a further penal tax. Consequently men and companies of this description are sending their capital out of the country. Owing to the unfairness of incidence and collection this graduated tax is paid more than once. Our experience of the close connexion between a high graduated tax on land and property, and the discouragement of industrial enterprise should be worth the study of Australians.
I know that honorable senators wish to catch their trains, and I am sorry that it has been necessary for me to read the whole of that extract in order to give it the publicity which I desire. I say that the proposed land tax, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will strike a blow at the root of our whole Federal system, because it is being introduced before it is absolutely required. Outside of that, I am not prepared to say whether or not it will inflict injury upon particular individuals. But certainly it will undermine the local government system which has been adopted throughout the States.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he intends to proceed with the consideration of the Land Tax Assessment Bill tomorrow, or whether he first proposes to move the second reading of the complementary measure?
– This afternoon, I asked a question in connexion with dishonoured Commonwealth cheques, to which the Minister of Defence replied - .
So far as the inquiries have proceeded, the Department of Trade and Customs has not obtained any information; but in order to enable further inquiries to be made I ask the honorable senator to postpone the question.
I take exception to that answer, because I supplied the Department with the source of the information upon which I based my inquiry. It is the following paragraph, which appears in the Daily Mercury, of 13th October last, and which is headed “ No Credit “-
We learnt yesterday that considerable inconvenience was being caused to someof the farmers through the absence of reimbursements from Brisbane to meet bounty cheques. Such a state of affairs has existed during the past couple of days, and cheques have been returned by the local bank marked “present again.” Possibly the vote for supply has not yet been put through the Federal House, but there is no doubt of the necessity for immediate reimbursements.
I did not have the opportunity of explaining the position when I put my question to the Minister this afternoon, but I wish him to understand that I gave the Department of Trade and Customs the source of my information at the earliest possible moment. If the Department is going to furnish replies of that character, I shall, in future, decline to supply it with information. It is treating me in a most discourteous and improper manner.
– The honorable senator’s language upon this question is very exaggerated, and in his calmer moments I am sure he will recognise that the attitude which he is now taking up is a ridiculous one. The question which he asked was as to whether the Department was aware that such and such a thing had occurred? The Department had no information, so far as its inquiries had gone, that the incident in question had occurred, and I therefore asked the honorable senator to postpone his question to enable further inquiries to be made. Those further inquiries will be based on the information which has been supplied by him.
– That is not what the Minister of Defence said previously.
– It is. The misconception arises from the construction which the honorable senator has placed upon the words of the reply. The information supplied by him is not that which the Department has obtained. The honorable senator seems to think that the reply was intended as a reflection upon himself, which it certainly was not. The fact that he has supplied information to the Department has nothing whatever to do with the question. I desired him to postpone his question in order that further inquiries might be instituted by the Department - inquiries founded on the information which he has supplied.
.- In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to say that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Land Tax Assessment Bill until the third-reading stage has been reached. It has been found that when the minds of honorable senators are concentrated upon a particular piece of legislation, it is better to proceed with its consideration uninterruptedly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101025_senate_4_58/>.