6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence by whom are the officers of the Transport Column selected? Has there been any advertisement of the positions, to give competent men an opportunity to apply for appointment?
– The appointment of all transport officers has been intrusted to Captain Tickell, and I have been given to understand that the appointments are made on the recommendations, testimonials, and other credentials submitted by the applicants.
– Were applications publicly invited?
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform me whether an arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth and the States respecting the valuation of the lighthouses which are to be transferred to the Commonwealth? I understand that replies have been received fromWestern Australia and Tasmania, and that those States have agreed to forego light dues amounting to £17,000 a year. Have replies been received from any of the other States?
– The valuation of the properties to be transferred to the Commonwealth is a matter which is in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs.
– Have the States consented to a basis of valuation?
– The Home Affairs Department has the matter in hand, andI have no definite information on the subject. Speaking from memory, Tasmania and Western Australia have agreed to forego only a proportion of their light dues, and no replies have been received from any other State. The Government intends to go on with its scheme of light dues, even though no other replies may be received.
– As there is a large sum on the Estimates for expenditure at the Federal Capital, and a number of works there almost ready to be commenced, will the Minister of Home Affairs give instructions that all the men out of employment there shall be put to work at once?
– I do not know that all the employed there will be put to work at once; but we are continually decreasing the number of unemployed, and when the new drainage works are commenced they will absorb a considerable additional number. I do not say that work will be found for thousands.
– Is the Prime Minis ter aware that yesterday a member sitting behind him interjected that the poor have sent their sons to the war, and have, therefore, contributed their fair share? Does not the right honorable gentleman think that the chief glory of the war is that all classes and all creeds alike have given of their time and their money, and have sent to the front those near and dear to them ?
– The present titanic struggle between two organized bodies of’ nations demands that those who believe that they are fighting for the right, as wo do, shall make sacrifices, whether they be rich or poor, old or young.
– Has not that already been done?
– I suggest to the honorable member that, even though remarks like that to which he drew attention may be made, it is unwise to give them further publicity.
– I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the Miss Deniliquin who has been lecturing on behalf of the Commonwealth in England is identical with the Miss Von Hein.bockel who is lecturing on behalf of the Commonwealth there ? If the two names are those of one and the same person, I ask why there has. been a change of name. Was it made at the suggestion or under the pressure of the Department ?
– I have no official knowledge of the change of name mentioned by the honorable member. There may be a feminine reason for it.
– Is the lady married?
– I have no official knowledge, but presume that she is still a “ Miss.” Arrangements were made some time ago to terminate her services.
– Yesterday the Assistant Minister of Defence promised to inquire regarding a blunder committed in loading the Red Cross steamer Kyarra with contraband of war. Has the honorable gentleman made an inquiry, and, if so, what is the result of itf
– I made an inquiry, and found that there had been no blunder. Some tallow was put into the steamer in Sydney, and taken out at Melbourne.
– There was practically 1,000 tons of contraband aboard.
– Is the Minister aware that a Red Cross vessel is not allowed to carry contraband of war, and is the Department aware of that? Does the hon orable gentleman regard it as immaterial that a Red Cross vessel should be loaded with contraband of war, and then be delayed for a week or two to have it unloaded ?
– The vessel left tha shores of Australia without having any contraband on board.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs read the statement of the chairman of a company engaged in the manufacture of cardboard and strawboard that, while they can successfully compete against European competitors, they cannot compete against Japanese competitors? Has the Minister power to discriminate or differentiate against various countries in the imposition of import duties.?
– I have not read the report referred to. The Tariff now before the House increases most of the duties which protect the cardboard manufacturing industry. It will be for Parliament to decide whether a discrimination shall be made against any country. At the present time, the only discrimination we make is to impose in some cases lower rates on goods coming from the United Kingdom than on those coming from other countries.
– Will the Prime Minister, where practicable, see that the wages of casual employes of the Commonwealth are paid to them before the Christmas season ?
– Wherever it is practicable that will be done. It is the practice at Christmas time, especially in the case of the lower-paid employes of the Commonwealth, to pay their wages, where practicable, before Christmas.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs say whether the finished plan of the Federal Capital has yet reached his hands, and, if not, what steps he proposes to take to expedite ita arrival 1
– The finished plan has not yet reached me. A letter was sent to Mr. Griffin a couple of days ago urging faim to send along the finished plan. I had an interview with him in the morning of the day in which the letter was sent, and it was understood that it would be sent along as soon as possible.
– With further reference to the matter of the competitive designs for the Federal Capital buildings, and the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs, at the beginning of the session, that the decision to postpone the competition would shortly be reconsidered by the Government, I desire now to ask the honorable gentleman whether the promised reconsideration of the matter has yet taken place, and, if not, when the Government propose to reconsider it.
– The matter has not been reconsidered up to date, and, in view of the pressure of public business, I do not think it is likely that an opportunity will be afforded for its reconsideration “before the coming adjournment of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of appointing a non-political Commission, with a view to inquiring into the delay in the launching of the cruiser Brisbane, the cause for the same, and who is.- really to blame in the matter?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member has been canvassed in another place, and also in this House. Questions on the subject have been asked of the Minister of Defence and the Assistant Minister of Defence. At the present time the best thing to be done is to get the ship launched. We can make inquiries afterwards.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has any statement to make to the House with regard to the filling of the portfolio rendered vacant by the sad death of Mr. Arthur?
– Yes, at the proper time.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed that it is reported in the press this morning that, in spite of the increased duties of the Tariff, the price of beer has now been reduced to what it was before the increased duties were imposed ?
– Yes; 1 have noticed in this morning’s newspapers that it is intended to sell Australian beer at the price which was charged for it previous to the imposition of the increased duties.
Cockburn Sound and Beauty Point
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, in view of the statement the honorable gentleman made the other day, to the effect that plans and specifications of the work to be done at Cockburn Sound had been received by the Government from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and my anticipation that they would be placed on the table, why he has not done what he promised. The session is nearly over, and it looks as if we shall not be able to see them ?
– The right honorable gentleman has this question on the noticepaper.
– In reply to the right honorable gentleman, I have to say that it is a fact that I stated that the plans had arrived in Melbourne, but, so far, the Government have not had time to inspect or consider them in any way. Until they have done so, they will not be laid on the table.
– In four months’ time.
– I am sorry to have to intervene, but I remind the right honorable member for Swan that he has a question on the notice-paper to-day referring to the matter with which he has now dealt. In spite of that, the honorable member has risen and asked his question without notice.
– I did not expect that there would be an answer to-day to my question on notice.
– If the question on notice would not be answered, it was impossible for the honorable member to expect that it would be answered without notice.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence is aware that the closing of the Tasmanian mine at Beaconsfield has thrown a number of miners out of employment. I would like to ask the honorable gentleman, without notice, whether work at the proposedNaval Base at Beauty Point, in an adjoining locality, can be put in hand soon enough to absorb a number of the men who have been thrown out of employment by the closing of the Tasmanian mine.
– I know that a large mine in the town of Beaconsfield, in Tasmania, has ceased operation, with the result that hundreds of men have been thrown out of employment. As to work at the Naval Base at Beauty Point, I would remind the honorable member that the first business which the Government must take in hand is the resumption of land for the purpose of the base. In view of the fact that nature has already provided a splendid harbour at Beauty Point, I am afraid that very little work in connexion with dredging will be available there.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if any progress is being made with the erection of lighthouses on the north Queensland coast ?
– The right honorable member for Swan asked me a question last week about the erection of lighthouses on the Western Australian coast, and in my reply I submitted a list of lighthouses in connexion with which work is going on at the present time on theNorth Queensland coast. A certain amount of work has been completed, but other work has had to be postponed on account of the hurricane season coming on. The work will be expedited as much as possible.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether he has come to any determination with regard to the telephone rates, and whether, if he proposes to alter them, he will table the altered rates before the House rises.
– The rates referred to have not yet been finally decided upon.
Contributions of Working Men
– I wish to ascertain from the Minister of Trade and Customs, for the information of the public, whether it is a fact that every time a working man lights his pipe for a smoke, or drinks a glass of beer, he is a contributor to the revenue of the country?
– Yes, it is a fact that those who drink beer or spirits, and also those who smoke, contribute very largely to the revenue of the country. It will be seen from the Budget-statement that we expect to raise over two-fifths of the Customs and Excise revenue from the duties on narcotics and stimulants.
– As a matter of privilege, I desire, Mr. Speaker, to address a question to you. I, in common with other honorable members, have been put to a good deal of inconvenience because of a regulation which has recently been framed under which, if I desire to speak to a pressman, I must apparently go into the street with him. I believe that instructions have been issued that newspaper reporters are to be excluded from the Library, and that they are to be “ shoo’d “ over the garden fence.
– Will the honorable member be respectful in addressing the Chair ?
– I think I am as respectful as I could be.
– If the honorable member is not respectful to the Chair I shall have to take a certain course.
– I am as respectful as I can be, and you can take whatever course you like.
– I name the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for disrespect to the Chair.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, apart altogether from other circumstances, not to persist in his attitude, but to withdraw his remark.
– In consideration of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, like myself, are probably a bit of a sick man, I desire to withdraw my remark, and to assure you that I had no wish to be disrespectful to you. I feel strongly concerning this matter. I have made inquiries, but have been unable to ascertain who is responsible for what has taken place in regard to the privileges of press representatives. I know that you, sir, have the courage of your opinions, but quite a number of members of the Committees which are involved in this matter have sought to make me believe that it is a case of “ the other fellow doing it.”
– Will the honorable member ask his question?
– I have here a copy of a question that I had intended to ask yesterday, but which I was informed I could not put in your absence. I proposed, sir, to ask -
– Order!I regret the incident which occurred a moment or two ago, but the honorable member realizes, I am sure, that the use of flippant language when addressing the Chair cannot be allowed. That matter, however, is at an end. When I called him to order the honorable member was proceeding to address to me a question which I had refused to allow him to place on the business-paper. I cannot permit him to do that. If he considers that I should not have disallowed the placing of his question on the notice-paper then it is for him to test my decision by means of a specific motion. The honorable member sought to place on the notice-paper a question which was not in his own handwriting, and which had evidently been supplied to him. This question which he handed in to the Clerk was submitted to me, and I refused to allow it to appear on the notice-paper, for the reason that it was not only disrespectful in its reference to certain members, but impudent in its wording. I am the guardian of the rights and privileges of every honorable member, and I cannot allow any outside person to commit a breach of those rights and privileges. There is one portion of this question which the honorable member is at liberty to ask if he thinks fit, and that is as to why members of the press were excluded for a certain time from the press galleries. I did not wish to have the matter made public, but if the honorable member desires it, I am perfectly willing to supply the House with a full and complete answer to his inquiry.
– I have no desire to be disrespectful to you, Mr. Speaker, in putting this question.I desire, now, to ask why members of the press were for a time excluded from the press gallery, and why what has been the custom for fourteen years - the custom of allowing members of Parliament, if they desire to do so, to have conversations with members of the press in the Library or the garden - has been departed from ?
– I understand that the honorable member desires the whole matter to be made public ?
– Then I shall ask the Clerk to read the correspondence relating to the exclusion of representatives of the press from the press gallery. In the first place, let me explain that representatives of the press engaged in reporting the proceedings of Parliament enjoy to-day exactly the same privileges that have always been accorded them in this House. At one time they exceeded the privileges extended to them - they abused them to some extent - and their attention had to be drawn to that fact. On Tuesday last it was brought under my notice that a document headed “The Lousy List” was posted up in a room in this building allotted to the representatives of one of the big newspapers.
– Why not mention the name of the newspaper?
– It was the room occupied by representatives of the Argus. I did not intend to mentionthe name of the newspaper for the reason that the editor has made ample apology, and has refused to allow the man responsible for the posting up of this list to return to duty here for some time. The statement waa made under the heading, “ The Lousy List,” that “no favours” and “no free advertisements “ were to be given “ to the following.” Then followed the names of the House Committee, consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament. I realized at once that it was my duty to take action to protect members of this House from such an insult. Just as I have to protect honorable members from insulting remarks that may be made in the House, so I must protect them from any breach of privilege by outside persons. I considered that this list, which was posted on a cupboard in the
Argus room in this building, constituted a grave breach of parliamentary privilege. I removed it, and going to the room occupied by representatives of the Age found there a list headed, “ The House Committee,” on which the names of the House Committee appeared. Its appearance there may have been a mere coincidence. But when we went to the Inter-State pressroom we found the same list of members under the heading, “ The Honor List,” with certain other remarks which, for the moment, I cannot recall. This, to my mind, clearly showed that concerted action had been taken by certain gentlemen, to whom various privileges have been accorded in this Parliament, with the object of insulting members of a Committee elected by this Parliament, and I therefore felt it my duty to take prompt action. I brought the matter under the notice of the President of the Senate, who, like myself, was very indignant, and we decided that these rooms should not be occupied until full, complete, and ample apology had been made by the newspapers whom these men represented. The President and I also communicated with the Inter-State press representatives, but the chairman of the Inter-State press gallery committee seemed to regard the matter lightly, and replied in a very flippant letter, in which he appeared to treat the whole thing as a joke. When, however, this gentleman realized that we regarded the matter seriously, he sent a second and third letter, the last of which was accepted as satisfactory. Until, however, that ample apology was made, which Mr. President and I thought was sufficient to cover the offence, the Inter-State press was denied the right to enter the press gallery. Had it not been for the fact that this question was to be raised this . morning, I should not have been present, and I have attended only in order that the House might have a full and clear knowledge of what has been done. Mr. President has authorized me to say that, while he and I occupy our respective positions, we shall, as far as we are able, maintain the dignity which every member of Parliament has the right to expect us to help them to maintain when any of their privileges are affected. What was done was, I think, one of the most outrageous and scandalous things that I have ever heard of. I must say, on behalf of the Age and the Argus, that both those newspapers took the matter very seriously, and made a full and complete apology, as honorable members will see from the correspondence. It was owing to the fact that they did make ample apology that I desired that the matter should be kept quiet. Neither Mr. President nor myself had any wish to make the matter known :to the public, but since this has been insisted on, we have no alternative but to make a full and complete statement. I may say that, the members of this House who are on the House Committee have always carried out their duties faithfully and conscientiously in what they believe to be the best interests of the press and the Parliament itself . They have never shirked their duties, although these are sometimes of a very trying nature, and I regret exceedingly that they should have been treated in the manner in which they have been treated by certain members of the press. These gentlemen must clearly understand that Mr. President and myself are determined to uphold the dignity of this and the other branch of the Legislature. I now call upon the Clerk to read the whole of the correspondence.
– Is that necessary in view of your statement?
Statement read by the Clerk as follows : -
T desire to inform the House that on last Monday a document was found posted in the room in this House allotted to the Argus reporters, which read as follows : - “ The Lousy List : - No favours or cheap advertisements to any of these : - Givens, Bakhap, Buzacott,
Long, McDougall, Needham, Story, McDonald, Burchell, Fleming, Foster, R. W., Mathews, O’Malley,Rodgers, Yates, and Monaghan.”
It appeared to the President and myself that this was a distinct breach of the privileges of the Houses. We accordingly wrote the following letter to the editor of the Argus : - 8th December, 1914.
We beg to forward herewith a copy of a document which was found posted in the room at Parliament House allotted to the members of your staff in attendance here. The names on the list are those of the members of the Joint House Committee and the Secretary.
We consider the heading to the document, and the intention it shows, are a breach of the privileges of the Houses. We desire to inform you that, until an apology is received for what has been done, no member of your staff will be admitted to the Reporters’ Gallery or rooms, or allowed any other privileges in the buildings.
We are, sir.
Thos. Givens, President.
Charles McDonald, Speaker.
The Editor of the Argus,
Collins- street, Melbourne.
The following letters were received in reply: -
Melbourne, 8th December, 1914.
To the Hon. the President,
The Senate, Melbourne.
From the Editor of the Argus, Melbourne.
I have to acknowledge the letter of this date, signed by yourself and by the Hon. the Speaker, directing my attention to a list of members posted in the room set apart for the staff of the Argus at Parliament House.
I have great difficulty in believing that any member of our staff would be guilty of compiling such a list, or of posting it in the room, and I have not been able in the short time that has elapsed since I received your communication, to make any inquiry into the matter. I can assure you, however, that the person or persons who are proved to be guilty of this proceeding will be severely dealt with if it be found that they are members of our staff.
I assume in the meantime that some one in our service did post the list since the evidence points to that conclusion, and, therefore, I have to offer to you and to Mr. Speaker, on behalf of this office, a full apology for an act so utterly contrary to good taste and to the wishes of the proprietors of the Argus.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Ed. S. Cunningham,
Melbourne, 8th December, 1914.
To the Hon. the President,
From the Editor of the A rgus, Melbourne.
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of the letter of this date signed by yourself and by the Hon. the Speaker, directing my attention to a list of members posted in the room at Parliament House set apart for the staff of the Argus. I have not been able to complete my inquiries into the matter but so far as I have been able to ascertain the facts, I regret to have to admit that some member of our staff has been guilty of the action of which you very justly complain.
I can assure you that as soon as we are satisfied as to who did this, he will be very severely dealt with, and’ in the meantime I have to offer to you, and to Mr. Speaker, on behalf of this office, a full apology for the serious breach of decorum which has been committed. I have only to add that it is contrary to the usages of the Argus for any reporter to allow personal feeling to influence him in carrying outhis work, and if it be found that there has been any departure from rule in this case, the necessary steps will be taken.
I have the honour to be,
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Ed. S. Cunningham,
The apology thus tendered was considered satisfactory, and was accepted.
In the Age room on the same occasion was found, but without the offensive heading, a list of the same members as was posted in the A rgus room, except that Senator Barker’s name appeared in place of Senator Bakhap’s.
We wrote to the editor of the Age as follows: - 8th December, 1914.
We beg to forward herewith a copy of two documents. The first, marked “ A,” was found posted in the room allotted to the Argus staff at Parliament House. The document marked “B” was found posted in the room allotted to the staff connected with your newspaper. The names of each list are those of the Joint House Committee. The document found in the Age room has not the offensive heading which appears on the other document. It seems to be more than a coincidence, however, and suggests that it covers some intention similar to that expressed by the Argus list.
In our opinion this is a breach of the privileges of the Houses.
We shall be glad to receive before noon tomorrow any explanation you may wish to make with regard to thismatter.
We are. sir,
Thos. Givens, President.
Charles McDonald, Speaker.
The Editor of the Age,
To this letter we received the following reply : -
The Age Office,
Melbourne, 8th December, 1914. .
In reply to your communication of the8th instant. I desire to say that neither the proprietors of the Age nor myself were aware any list had been posted in the room used by the Age staff at Parliament House, nor was any member of the staff authorized to do so. Mr. Biggs, Chief of our Reporting Staff, informs me that he, too, was unaware of what had been done, and has ordered the list to be removed at once. I learn that Mr. Brickhill, reporter, posted the list on his own initiative. His reasons for doing so are stated in a letter to mc to-night, which I attach. I would like to add, with regard to what may be read into Mr. Brickhill’s action, that no member of the Age staff would be permitted to discriminate in any way in reporting members.
I have the honour to be, sir,
To Thos. Givens, Esq.,
Chas. McDonald, Esq.
Melbourne, 8th December, 1914.
The Age; the Leader.
In reply toyour inquiry, I desire to state that the list of members of the House Committee posted in the Age room at Federal Parliament House was placed there by me for the information of members of the staff engaged at Parliament. It was done on my own initiative. In discussing among ourselves the recent withdrawal of certain privileges formerly granted to us in Parliament, pressmen generally had decided to try and ascertain from individual members of the House Committee the reasons for action which we regarded as reflecting on us personally. As the personnel of the Committee was not well known, and members of the staff had on several occasions asked me who they were, I prepared the list and posted it.
Geo. R. Brickhill.
Mr. Schuler, Editor.
On receipt of this letter from the editor of the Age we addressed to him a further letter in the following terms: - 9th December, 1914.
Adverting to our letter of the 8th inst., on the subject of a notice posted in the room allotted to your staff at Parliament House, and your reply thereto, we are of opinion that the explanation tendered is unsatisfactory, in view of the fact that a somewhat similar notice in vulgar and scurrilous terms was also posted in the room occupied by members of the Argus staff, and a further notice in the Inter-State press room, indicating there was concerted action taken by pressmen generally at Parliament House, and that the notice was posted with the same intention and purpose as those in the other rooms. We desire to add. therefore, that unless a full apology is tendered by 12 o’clock to-morrow the members of your staff will be excluded from the privileges of Parliament.
We are, sir,
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Thos Givens, President.
Chas. McDonald, Speaker.
The Editor of the Age.
We received the following reply: -
The Age Office,
Melbourne, 9th December, 1914.
I desire to acknowledge your communication of the 9th instant on the subject of a notice posted in the room allotted to the Age staff at Parliament House. I deeply regret the incident has occurred. I had no knowledge whatever of any concerted action by the staff, and entirely condemn and disapprove of any such action, and beg to tender an apology for the unpleasant incident, and to give my assurance that everything will be done to insure that the staff will observe the respect due to the privileges of Parliament. i have the honour to be, sirs,
Yours truly (Sgd.) G. F. H. Schuler,
To the Hon. T. Givens, Esq., President;
Chas. McDonald, Esq., Speaker.
This letter was considered satisfactory, and we informed the editor of the Age accordingly.
The following was posted up in the InterState Pressroom: -
List of Senators and Members who, owing to their action to pressmen, may not . . . ask for favours : -
Foster, R. W
And good luck to them !
We sent the following letter to Mr. H. W. Peters, Chairman of the Inter-State Press Committee: - 9th December, 1914.
We desire to call your attention to a notice recently posted on the wall of the room used by the members of the Inter-State Press at Parliament House. Such notice was headed “ The Roll of Honor,” and contained a list of Senators and members of the House of Representatives who are members of the Joint House Committee. This notice is evidently intended to serve the same purpose as a scurrilous and vulgar document of the same nature, which was posted by pressmen in another part of the House reserved for their use; and unless we are furnished with a satisfactory explanation in the matter, and receive a full apology by 12 noon to-morrow, it is our intention to exclude members of the Inter-State Press from all privileges at Parliament House.
Thomas Givens, President
Charles McDonald, Speaker.
Chairman of the Press Committee,
The following reply was received from Mr. Peters: -
Melbourne, 9th December, 1914
The President and the Speaker of the Federal Parliament.
In reply to your communication of December 9, I have to say that I was previously unaware of what was posted in the Argus and the Age rooms. I rarely visit those parts of the House. It is a fact that in the Inter-State room a list of members of the House Committee was posted on the wall. As soon as I saw it I endeavoured to tear it off. But as it was stuck too tightly to remove more than a part I pasted a blank sheet over it. When this sheet was removed I pasted another with a request that it should not be interfered with. It was not afterwards touched by any member of the Inter-State Press. I think the action was merely a prank of one of the young fellows who have access to the room. Youthful effervescence takes curious forms sometimes, and often acts irresponsibly without intending to be harmful. Perhaps it is the result of an undeveloped artistic sense, a fact not uncommon en este valle de lagrimas. The fact that the notice was at once pasted over, and was, therefore, cancelled and repudiated in the only method that was conveniently possible should, I submit, be accepted as a clear indication that there was no intention by the room to transgress any rules of the House. At the same time I admit that there was an indiscretion by whomever it was committed, and I wish to express regret that itshould have occurred.
I am, dear sirs,
Chairman of Gallery Committee.
That letter was not considered satisfactory, and Mr. Peters wrote a further one.
Melbourne, 10th December, 1914.
The President and the Speaker,
The Federal Parliament House.
In reply to your letter of yesterday it is correct that there was a notice posted in the Inter-State Pressroom containing the names of the members of the House Committee. I at once endeavoured to remove it, but found it was pasted too tightly on the wall. Accordingly I covered it with a blank sheet of paper. This was removed. I placed another with a request that it should not be interfered with. This request was observed. I wish to express my regret that the notice was posted at all, and to say that the indiscretion was one that I am sure will not be repeated.
I am, sirs,
Chairman of Reporters’ Gallery.
That letter was not considered satisfactory, and Mr. Peters wrote again.
Commonwealth of Australia.
The Senate, Melbourne.
The President and the Speaker,
Supplementing my letter of to-day, I wish to add that as Chairman of the Gallery Committee I unreservedly apologise for the incident to which it relates, and express my regret that a breach of parliamentary decorum should have been committed in the Inter-State Pressroom.
I am, dear sirs,
To this the President replied as follows: - .
Melbourne, 11th December, 1914.
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 10th instant, conveying on behalf of the Gallery Committee an apology in connexion with the appearance on the walls of the InterState Pressroom of a notice which it was considered constituted a breach of the privileges accorded to press representatives at Parliament House. In accepting the apology. I desire to record my satisfaction at the closing of an incident which I am sure has beendistasteful to all parties concerned, and further to express a hope that in the future harmonious relations may continue between members of Parliament and press representatives whose work necessitates their attendance at Parliament House.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Thos. Givens,
President of the Senate.
Chairman, Press Gallery Committee, Parliament House.
– All this is news to me. Had I known, Mr. Speaker, that my questions would necessitate your coming here this morning, I should certainly have postponed them. What I cannot understand is the fact that members of the press-
– Do I understand the honorable member to be making a personal explanation ?
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker. Why have the members of the press been prevented from going into the Library and into the gardens? Why has this change been made after fourteen years? Is the Library Committee or the President and yourself responsible?
– The honorable member has put a direct question as to why the members of the press are not allowed in the Parliamentary gardens or in the Library. The gardens are under the control of the President, while the Library is under my own control ; and I have to say that members of the press are not prevented from going to the Library. The Librarian has instructions to give members of the press every possible opportunity to consult works of reference, which are immediately produced on a request being made. Any information contained in the Library is open to members of the press without let or hindrance.
– May a member of the press go into the Library and get the information for himself?
– A member of the press may go to the Library and ask the Librarian for any book he requires. Honorable members understand that the Commonwealth is acquiring some very valuable works and documents, some of which it is not considered wise to allow even members of Parliament to handle. If honorable members were permitted to handle these works as they please, the Library would be in a very bad way in a short time.
– Why? This is reflecting on all of us.
– If honorable members will permit me, I should now like to refer to the matter more fully so that the position may be thoroughly understood. In the Library are bound files of newspapers, some of which go back for a considerable number of years, and it has been found that some of these have been cut. That being so, it has been considered necessary to take very drastic action.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I do not wish to attribute that action to members of the press, because I have not the remotest idea of when, how, or by whom it was done. As to the members of the press, I wish to say clearly and distinctly that they enjoy the same privileges now that were granted to them by this Parliament fourteen years ago. Those privileges, however, must not be abused. Only a short time ago I had to take action in consequence of finding that the corridors were turned into a smoking saloon. This I resented, and the practice was put a stop to after ample apology had been made by those offending. The Parliamentary gardens are set apart for the use of members. If members of the press are allowed to have the use of the gardens it is not possible for members to there hold private conversations, or play their games amongst themselves if they desire to do so. If strangers are permitted the use of the gardens along with honorable members, matters, which were never intended to be public, may get abroad. Some members of the press seemed to take complete control, or, at any rate, to go beyond th© privileges originally granted. The House Committee unanimously agreed that this practice should be discontinued, and that only certain privileges should be granted. Effect has since been given to that decision by the
President. One word more in connexion with the Library. In that Library we are building up a very valuable collection of books - a collection which every honorable member should cherish and endeavour to guard to the fullest possible extent. Yet, as a fact, it has been found that honorable members themselves take books from that Library which are sometimes returned either marked, or with passagesunderlined or erased. It is quite a common thing for works of reference to be returned with all sorts of marks in them. Manifestly that sort of thing ought not to be permitted. But the difficulty is to find a means of stopping it. It is a very bad practice that books should be thus marked, and I trust that in future honorable members will discontinue it. So far as the Library is concerned, certain regulations have been framed by the Committee for our guidance. It is quite a common thing for honorable members to obtain books from the Library and to hand them over to pressmen or to other persons to take away. I have actually witnessed this sort of conduct myself. Now, the Library has not been established for that purpose, and until the House decides that it has, neither the Library Committee nor I intend to sanction it. It will thus be seen that honorable members themselves are to a large extent blamable in this connexion. Now that the matter has been brought before the House - a circumstance which I very much regret and which I did my best to prevent - I trust that honorable members will assist the House Committee to carry out their duties in the way in which it was intended they should be carried out-. It has frequently happened that new magazines have disappeared from the table of the Library for two or three weeks, and in the interim fresh magazines have had to be purchased. Then again, it has been found that press representatives are often in the Library when honorable members go there to discuss matters of which they do not desire the public to be informed. In these circumstances the Library Committee have resolved that, whilst the press representatives shall be afforded every opportunity to obtain any works of reference which they may desire to consult, those works must be secured only after direct application has been made to the Librarian.
– I am very much obliged to you, sir, for having cleared this matter up. So far as I am concerned, the explanation which has just been given is perfectly satisfactory.
– Before this incident closes-
– I cannot allow any further questions in regard to it.
Mr.Fenton. - I wanted to ask a questionin reference to Hansard.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Tariff contains a provision similar to that introduced in the Mother Country by Mr. Lloyd George, under which those persons who neither smoke nor drink, nor encourage sport, shall contribute their quota to the revenue?
– The honorable member knows that there are very few persons in the community who will be able to escape some of the items of taxation imposed by the Tariff.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney is correct, viz., that only men who drink and smoke encourage sport?
– I do not think so. Australians, irrespective of whether or not they drink or smoke, are great lovers of sport, and do their best to encourage it.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a statement which appeared in the press this week to the effect that the English mail from Colombo brought about 200,000 letters from members of the first Expeditionary Force, but that it is not likely those letters will reach their destination until the censor staff has satisfied itself that no military secrets have been revealed by the writers. Will the Minister strengthen the censor staff - if that course be necessary - in order to insure the expeditious examination and delivery of those letters?
– The Postal Department is doing everything that is possible to prevent delay occurring in the delivery of letters owing to the military censorship.
Report by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Having in view the large quantity of material to be dredged, I recommend, on the ground of economy, that it is desirable to obtain special dredgers for this work. It will be necessary for these channels to bo available by the date when the base can accommodate ships, and I estimate that it will be five years before such partial completion will enable them to be used. I estimate that it will take at least fifteen months to obtain the necessary dredgers, and these dredgers will occupy something less than four years to complete the channels.
I recommend three suction hopperdredgers with 2,000 tons hopper capacity, and one bucket hopper dredger, as the minimum plant requisite for economical working.
The suction dredgers are to work at the banks, while the bucket dredger will work near the base, except when required to assist the suction dredges with any difficult material on the outside banks.
The estimated cost of the dredgers is £370,000 built in Great Britain and delivered at Fremantle - what reason is there for delay in at once ordering these dredgers?
Mr.JENSEN- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is the Government taking any action in connexion with the proposed railway line from Sydney to Broken Hill?
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Has the Government made any representations to the State of South Australia as to the desirableness of making the gauge of the proposed State railway from Adelaide to Port Augusta uniform with the gauge on the Commonwealth railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. Representations were made to the State Government early this year, and a reply dated 5th February, 1914, was received from the State Premier, a copy of which I am laying on the table of the House. Since that date the question has been merged into the larger proposal in connexion with the adoption of a uniform railway gauge.
– On 10th inst. the honorable member for Nepean asked the following question : -
Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House as to when the payment for overtime work done by the Electoral officers in New South Wales, in June, July, August, and September, is likely to be paid?
The reply is -
The accounts are at the present time the subject of inquiry. If found to be correct and in accordance with Public Service regulations, payment will be made at an early date.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the issue of Treasurybills.
– I understand that the Senate has adjourned until Tuesday afternoon, yet in this Chamber Bills are being introduced, I could almost say, by the score.
– They are all absolutely necessary.
– I know that they are necessary. All Bills introduced for the next hundred years will be necessary, but their urgency is another matter. We are supposed to be sitting over the week-end in order to clear up our work, and get away early next week, yet the Government are filling the notice-paper fuller than ever. We are expected on Saturday morning to clear off the remnants of the business of the session, yet there are twenty items of Government business on the notice-paper. How can the Prime Minister expect that these measures will receive the slightest consideration if the House is to rise on the date mentioned ? I do not know what we are going to do. I suggest that the Prime Minister should go through the list of measures, and jettison some for which there is no urgency, and which can wait until next year. I admit that there may be some urgency in regard to the Bills he is seeking to introduce to-day, but there is no urgency in regard to many of the measures on the notice-paper. Seeing that the Senate has adjourned until Tuesday, what is to happen to the mass of business on our notice-paper, and what is to happen in regard to our adjournment?
– Before the Leader of the Opposition and I came to an understanding about the adjournment on Tuesday or Wednesday next, I showed the right honorable gentleman a list of the measures we proposed to pass, and he assented to it. Our proposal was to conclude the financial Bills, and I informed the Leader of the Opposition that, in accordance with his suggestion, I would waive the Telephone Purchases Bill.
– Is there any necessity for passing the Treasury Bills Bill before Christmas ?
– There is.
– As long as the Bill is passed before the end of the year it will be sufficient.
– I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman as to that. We may need to cover a temporary deficit in our revenue at any time. The present is not a time when, for sentimental reasons, we can afford to take risks.
– The plain fact is that you do not need this Bill until the end of the year.
– The responsibility in regard to the matter rests upon the Government.
– In all matters of finance, the responsibility also lies with the Opposition.
– I cannot dispute that fact. The Treasury Bills Bill cannot be used except for the purpose of raising sufficient money to provide for carrying on the government of the country. I rely on expert advice upon the matter, and my advice is that the passage of the Bill is absolutely necessary.
– I admit that it is necessary, but the point is when it is necessary.
– The Prime Minister will admit that honorable members of the Opposition have done all they possibly could to facilitate the passage of business. I do not think that he can complain of their attitude in regard to the debates upon the matters that have been submitted to the House. There has been no attempt to unduly delay anything. On the contrary, every disposition has been shown to expedite business the Government have put before the House, even though some honorable members of the Opposition have been strongly opposed to many of the matters embodied in the measures submitted. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there are now twenty items on the business-paper, and it was understood that the object of the agreement to sit continuously until the adjournment was to clear up the business already on the notice-paper.
– The financial measures.
– The Prime Minister might, for the information and convenience of honorable members generally, intimate actually what Bills he proposes to proceed with, and what measures he proposes to jettison. To know this would be a convenience to honorable members whose desire is really to get the business through. I think that honorable members are entitled to know what business the Government intend to go on with.
– Our desire is to let honorable members see the Bills, and then they can realize for themselves whether the measures are necessary. At present we are merely asking for permission to let honorable members know what the Bills contain. We are not asking honorable members to pass them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr.Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
It is a Bill to cover any issue of Trea sury-bills that may be needed to meet a shortage in our revenue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– If honorable members are agreeable, I should like permission to move the second reading of the Bill at a later hour to-day.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to move the second reading of the Bill at a later hour to-day?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– On a point of order, we are getting into a loose method of doing business. There is no objection to the second reading being taken on the same day as the first reading is carried, but the proper course is to ask that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to allow that to be done. I merely ask that the proper procedure be adopted.
– In the absence of a motion to permit the necessary procedure to be followed, I asked honorable members whether the Prime Minister had leave to move the second reading at a later hour to-day, and I understand that honorable members have accorded the Prime Minister the necessary leave.
– I have not seen the Bill, because it has not been circulated.
– The House decided that the second reading shall be taken at a later stage of the day.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is simply the usual Bill to provide what I may designate a big bag into which Trust Funds shall go.
– Is the amount specified in the Bill very much larger than it has been in the past?
– No, we had three or four millions before. It is a good policy to provide for two or three years ahead.
– This is a Bill to enable a Trust Fund to be formed into which any surpluses shall go, but the primary object of the measure is to defeat section 94 of the Constitution.
– I do not like the statement made by the right honorable member that the object of the Bill is to defeat portion of the Constitution. Its object is to carry out part of the Constitution in a way which was declared by the High Court to be right and proper for the Commonwealth to take. Therefore, language of the kind used by the right honorable member might be seriously misunderstood.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That it, is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the borrowing of money from or through the Government of the United Kingdom.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 11th December(vide page 1684) of motion by Mr. Fisher -
That in lieu of the land tax imposed by the Land Tax Act 1010, there be imposed a land tax on the unimproved value of all lands within the Commonwealth which are owned by persons, at the rates set out in the following Schedules: - “ First Schedule.
Rate of Tax when an Owner is not an Absentee.
For, so much of the taxable value as docs not exceed £75,000. the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny and one-fifteen thousandth of one penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable value by one-fifteen thousandth of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £75,000 the rate of tax shall be Ninepence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,000 may be calculated from the following formula: -
R = rate of tax in pence per pound sterling.
V = taxable value in pounds sterling.
Rate of Taxwhen Owner is an Absentee.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £80,000 the rate of tax shall be Tenpence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as exceeds £5,000, and does not exceed £80,000, may be calculated by the following formula: -
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £12.17]. - I am sorry that I cannot allow this to pass formally this morning. I do not propose to raise any debate. I hope there will be none, but I do propose to move an amendment, and I will do so at this stage, because it is the action of the Committee which imposes this additional taxation. I have taken up the ground, and I see nothing to change my opinion, that this taxation is unnecessary at tlie present time. With prudent financing it could be entirely obviated, for this year at any rate, and while the tremendous drought from which we are suffering is current. Since the chances of doing any thing else are remote, I shall move, as the next best thing, to limit this taxation to the duration of the war; and without debating the matter further I move -
That after the word “That,” line 1, the following words be inserted. “In and for each financial year beginning on the 1st day’ of July, 1914, and each financial year thereafter until that next following the financial fear in which the Governor-General issues a procla- mation that the present state of war has ceased.”
That is intended to limit this taxation to the duration of the war.
– I am unable to agree to the amendment. It is one to which any Government could agree quite handsomely, leaving the difficulty to another Government or party to deal with, but it is valueless and purposeless when it is covered by the statement of the right honorable gentleman that with prudent financing we could do without any taxation. In my opinion it would be an attitude of cow ardice on the part of the Government to pledge the country’s credit to such an excessive extent that it would be weakened. It would show that the Government had no backbone. . We might as well say that we could fight our way with a proxy. When difficulties and dangers come, it has been the tradition of our race to face them.
– You are opening up a debate.
– An attack has been made from the Opposition.
– What nonsense ! There is no attack at all : we have simply moved an amendment.
– I took down the words of the Leader of the Opposition - that with prudent financing we could have negotiated this period without imposing any further taxation or burden.
– You could have avoided this taxation.
– If that is not throwing down the .gauntlet I do not know what is.
– Throw it down.
– Am I not entitled to make an answer to the statement which has been made ?
– Quite another communication was made to me this morning through the Whip regarding the attitude of the Opposition, bub I make no complaint of that.
– What was that?
– Only half an hour ago I was told that there would be no division. I am not complaining of the attitude now taken, but I wish to say this - that possessing a magnificent country, we have told the world that we are going to make sacrifices to meet a great emergency, and, in doing so, the responsibility rests upon the Government to provide the necessary means to give effect to our declaration. I ask my honorable friends not to support the amendment.
– The right honorable gentleman as usual has taken up an attitude the exact opposite to that which he took up the night before last. He has spoken now of a great emergency - a time of danger and stress. That is not the reason for this taxation . Here is what the right honorable gentleman himself said about thirty-six hours ago, not what anybody else put in his mouth -
– I ask the right honorable gentleman if that is to be so in connexion with these taxes?
– These taxes do not provide for the liquidation of the war debt.
– That is a sufficient answer. The right honorable gentleman tells us that these taxes have nothing to do with the liquidation of war liabilities. We are, therefore, to assume that they are for the purpose of liquidating his ordinary liabilities - liabilities incurred in carrying on the ordinary services of the Government for the year.
– They carry that on their face.
Clearly, therefore, there is no time of danger and stress which affects these proposals at all. The danger and stress is otherwise provided for, and the right honorable gentleman himself gave notice this morning of an emergency proposal to deal with it. It is, therefore, not a matter of courage in facing a national emergency. There will be no amendment moved to that proposal. We will help the right honorable gentleman to do anything in that direction, and we will do it without cavil. We are going to get right behind him in dealing with the danger and stress of the situation, and we will take care that he does not get all the credit of “ the big strong man in a blatant land “ so far as the danger and stress of war is concerned. AVe are with him there. We say that that only lays upon us an additional obligation to see that the ordinary finances of the Government are placed upon a prudent basis. I say that the Estimates for this year are swollen - unnecessarily swollen. For all the purposes of efficient government, the Treasurer could do with less than he has. Therefore I do not agree with this new taxation. My logical position - and I quite agree with my right honorable friend in that respect - is to vote against the proposed taxation altogether, and I am going to do it. There is no hope, I know, of achieving anything in that direction, but if this is to be regarded as a time of stress and danger, then the Treasurer ought to agree to the amendment as limiting him to the period of stress and danger, and leaving the House free to reconsider the whole position anew at the end of that period.
– If this amount of revenue which is required iscut off, it will be a declaration that the Commonwealth is incapable of providing for its necessary services, or that the men who represent the people are not prepared to face the situation at a time when the resources of this country are quite capable of providing for our expenditure. No onecan foresee what our future expenditure may be, and during the progress of the war a declaration to the world that we can pay our way is consistent with the whole of our previous announcements.
– I have come to the conclusion that in introducing this method of taxation theGovernment are carrying out their policy, and that it would have been introduced during the term of this Parliament whether there was a war or not. Their system is to burst up and destroy the landowners of this country, and those who have anything. That has been their policy all along. Of course, I know that what I say falls upon deaf ears, but I have shown in my speech on the Budget proposals that, so far as our requirements in this financial year are concerned, there is no necessity whatever to introduce this drastic taxation. The Prime Minister treats that statement as having no foundation. I have already clearly pointed out to him that he could do everything he proposed to do, and avoid a deficit, without resorting either to extra land taxation or to probate duties. His appeals to patriotism are alien to the issue. We are all prepared to face the difficulties that confront us, not only with words, but with acts, but, as we have shown, there is no need for the taxation of one section of the community now proposed. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, we could have curtailed our expenditure to some extent.
– On public works?
– We need not have curtailed our public works expenditure, but we need not have met it out of revenue. The Prime Minister has failed to recognise the existence of the disastrous drought which is impoverishing the country. He takes care that those who support him are not taxed, and wishes it to be considered an heroic act to impose taxation on the few who are opponents of the Labour Party.
– I protest against the proposed land taxation, especially as ithas been brought forward during a period of drought, when the surface of four-fifths of Australia is like an ash-bed. But, as I understand that it was agreed last night not to continue this stageof the discussion, and that I shall have an opportunity to speak when a Bill has been introduced, I shall not take up further time now.
– I wish to discuss the Budget.
– The Budget discussion is closed.
– It was closed last night.
– The matters dealt with can be debated when we meet again.
– I shall probably be in America then. I have something to say now about the Commonwealth Bank.
– The amending Bank Bill will shortly come before the House again.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Joseph Cook’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … … 22
Noes … … … 30
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In common with many other honorable members, I am opposed to the terms and substance of the motion. Similar motions based upon messages from the GovernorGeneral are commonly carried as formal, and, in order to expedite matters, I am prepared to allow this motion to go at the present time, but I wish it to be clearly understood that I have no sympathy whatever with it, and that I shall strongly oppose the proposal when it comes before us in the shape of a Bill. I consider the proposed taxation unfair, unjustifiable, and unnecessary.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 11th December(vide page 1684), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That an estate duty be imposed upon the estates of deceased persons, at the rates set out in the following Schedule: -
– It is my intention to move an amendment upon this motion similar to that which I submitted on the motion which has just been carried. The object is to put the proposal upon a war basis. I move -
That after the word “ That,”line 1, the following words be inserted: - “in and for each financial year beginning on the first day of July. 1014, and each financial year thereafter until the next following the financial year in which the Governor-General issue a proclamation that the present state of war has ceased.”
– I do not intend to discuss the amendment. There is no occasion to limit the operation of the proposed duties, as future Governments and Parliaments will be best able to determine how long it is necessary to continue any legislation in operation.
– I should like to say in reply to the Prime Minister that the Government have not been influenced by any such reason for refusing to limit the operation of such legislation in respect to any of the war emergency proposals which have so far been submitted to the House. I have embodied in my amendment precisely the wording used in the other war Bills which have been before this Chamber, and which are now upon the statute-book. The Prime Minister might have applied to any of those measures the argument which he has just used in defence of the motion now before the Committee.
.– The Prime Minister has said that there is no occasion to limit the operation of this proposal for a particular time because the legislation can easily be altered by Parliament at the instance of the Government at any time. That is not a reasonable statement to make. If a person is aware that it is proposed to impose upon him a heavy tax for only a limited time he may probably be prepared to pay it with a good grace, but if he knows that he. will have to pay the tax for a long time, or an indefinite time, he will consider it a much more serious matter. People may be able to meet burdens for a little time which they would be altogether unable to bear for a lengthened period. The Prime Minister is making a great mistake in trying to impose upon the country a burden of this kind for an indefinite period. The action at present being taken by the Government bears out what I have previously said. I believe that if no war at all had occurred these burdens would have been imposed upon the people who will have to bear them, by the Government and the party they represent, as a matter of policy and in furtherance of their desire to destroy the land-owners of the country.
– My honorable friends opposite have openly said so. They have declared that the Federal land tax was imposed with the object of bursting up large estates, and not for revenue purposes at all . At one time the object was closer settlement, now it is revenue. The Prime Minister, and those who are supporting him, are showing their hands clearly. They believe in this taxation as a permanent burden upon land-owners and those who have acquired landed property in this country. This is really a levy and not a tax. The Government are following out the policy of spoliation and destruction to which the Labour party is committed.
.- I think the right honorable member for Swan is crying out before he is hurt. Can the honorable gentleman refer me to any precedent in the imposition of taxation of this kind for the proposed limit to its operations ?
– Yes; a similar limit is provided for in the Imperial Bills.
– Are we to slavishly follow English precedents? . The honorable member for Swan talked about the people who would have to pay this taxation. Property owners, as their property becomes morevaluable in process of time, will be able to pay more taxation than it may be necessary to impose just now. I mention this only because the Treasurer contended that these taxation proposals should not be made permanent, since people would lose heart by having a permanent burden placed upon them.
– They cannot pay it.
– Then they will not need to pay it. Yon cannot extract blood from a turnip, or take the breeks off a Highlander. Honorable members opposite are exaggerating for electoral purposes the effects of this taxation.
– The drought has not touched up the honorable gentleman.
– My sympathies go out to those who have suffered by the drought, and I understand that the right honor- able member is among the number. It is a matter for surprise that he does not attribute the visitation of the drought to the malign influence of the Labour party. When he and his party were in office, he appeared to claim partnership with Providence.
– Do not “ stone-wall “ your own proposals. Let us take a division before lunch.
– This is the first occasion on which I have spoken on this subject, but since there is a desire to proceed to a division, I shall say no more.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Joseph Cook’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1914 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twelfth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen, at Twelve o’clock noon, Victorian time, duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended.
– What was the duty under the old item ?
– Under it wheat was dutiable at1s. 6d. per cental. This will now make wheat free.
– Will the rest of the item remain as before ?
– Exactly the same. This amendment will make wheat coming in from any country free of duty.
– It means that the people with wheat are to pay the tax.
– According to the best figures available on the subject, Australia will probably have to import over 5,000,000 bushels- perhaps 10,000,000 bushels - of wheat to make up the season’s shortage, and it is for that reason that the Government have brought forward this amendment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The resolution is operative as from the time I moved it before the adjournment for lunch, as is the case with all ordinary Tariff resolutions; but some honorable members seem to think it desirable that I should state the position of the Government with regard to the matter. The reason that actuated the Government in making wheat free was a desire to meet the present emergency. The position to-day is that we have produced in Australia only about two-thirds of what is required for our ordinary consumption. The crop this year, according to the most reliable figures - and I think it includes the amount carried over from last season - is about 25,000,000 bushels.
– Is that the stocks, old and new ?
– Why, the new cropis estimated to be over 25,000,000 bushels.
– It has been impossible to obtain the information in the caseof some holdings; but assuming even that we had 30,000,000 bushels on hand, we should then require to import about 7,000,000 bushels. Our annual consumption is about 27,000,000 bushels, and we require for seed about 10,000,000 bushels. These are authoritative figures, and it is agreed by every one that there is not now enough wheat in Australia. As wheat is about double the price it was this time last year-
– Does the 27,000,000 bushels refer only to the consumption requirements?
– The consumption requirements, independent of seed. There will be a serious shortage - a fact which the Government took into consideration in deciding on the step I am now taking to meet the present emergency. The resolution will operate until we come back in April, but the intention of the Government is not to treat wheat for all time in this way.
– I am glad to hear it, because there was nothing on the face of the resolution to indicate it.
– There never is in any Tariff resolution.
– And there was nothing in your statement.
– Did I have an opportunity to make a full statement? The intention of the Government was to table the resolution in such a way as to allow any honorable member sufficient time to criticise it in Committee of Ways and Means. It could have been tabled next Monday or Tuesday just as readily as to-day, but we were anxious that any honorable member who had anything to say should have a full and fair opportunity of saying it.
– What limitation of time do you suggest?
– We are not putting any limitation of time in the Bill itself, but Parliament will meet in April of next year, and the price of wheat is not likely to vary much between now and then. The wheat crop in the northern hemisphere is pretty well fixed, and the latest information shows that the price in Chicago, which is recognised as being one of the world’s markets, was from $1 12 cents to $1 14 cents. This is equivalent to about 4s. 8d. to 4s. 9d., and as it would cost at least 1s. per bushel to bring it here the price landed in Australia would be at least 5s. 9d., plus duty, which is about the price ruling in the Australian market to-day. The intention of the Government is to meet the present emergency caused by the drought, but not to take the duty off for all time. We were desirous that at this particular time the persons affected should have an opportunity of getting wheat at these prices. My belief is that the farmers are not holding very much wheat, but that the people holding it at the present time are the speculators - the large holders.
– That was absolutely disproved by the Victorian Commission.
– I candidly admit that I should not rely very much on the Victorian Commission.
– Have you better information than the Commission has?
– I do not say that I have, but, judging by the action of the Commission-
– Does the Minister wish the Committee to understand that the speculators are holding the new crop?
– I have every reason to believe that a great majority of the speculators have a lien over the new crop.
– The speculating Government of yours in New South Wales is holding it.
– That is the only monopoly.
– I do not suppose honorable members will say that the action we have taken is in the interests of the New South Wales Government. We have taken action in the interests of the whole of the people.
– Except the men who have grown the wheat.
– I think when only about two-thirds of what is required of any commodity is produced in a country, the Government have a right to look into the question and to decide what action shall be taken. That is the reason the Government have moved in this matter.
– Would the duty on wheat ever be operative unless there was a shortage in Australia ?
– In what way?
– It enables people in Australia to at least get the world’s price plus the duty. That is the case with regard to a large number of commodities, including wheat.
– What, when there is a surplus of wheat to export ?
– Yes, because the holders take very good care that they take advantage of it.
– I am afraid the Minister does not know anything about it.
– Thehonorable member knows all about everything.
– I confess I do not, but when there is an exportable surplus you cannot get the world’s market price in Australia, plus the duty.
– Wheat has also been sold for export at a great deal less than it has been sold at in the home market.
– In normal years? Do you say that deliberately?
– Yes, I know it has been sold.
– Have any of the State Governments sought assistance from the Federal Government in the way of the suspension of the fodder and wheat duties?
– I cannot call to mind any that have asked for the suspension of the wheat duties, but the Western Australian Government submitted a request in regard to fodder. The other Governments said there was a shortage, and, as I said to the honorable member for Wimmera on the fodder question-
– Who originated this?
– In the case of the fodder, the Government saw there was need to act, and acted accordingly. Five or six weeks ago the Government communicated with the States on the subject, and, with the exception of Western Australia, not one Government notified any shortage in fodder.
– Why did the Government not suspend the duty on fodder ?
– Because no State, with the exception of Western Australia, notified that there was any shortage.
– But the Government did not wait for the States in the case of wheat; why should they wait in the case of fodder?
– Because after consulting the Premiers, the Government did not see there was any necessity to do so.
– The Minister has figures showing that there is a big shortage of fodder.
– I know that the honorable member headed a deputation, who made representations to that effect, and in that connexion I waited to hear from the Government of Victoria for over four weeks.
– If there is no shortage of fodder, how does the Minister account for the high price of £7 and £8 a ton?
– I do not think that the price of fodder has increased in the same ratio as the price of wheat. The Government have not decided that wheat shall be free for all time, but they anticipate that the present emergency may last until April.
.- It may refresh the memory of Ministers, and members behind them, if I once more place before the Committee the words in which the Prime Minister declared the Tariff policy on which the Government were returned to office. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th July, this year, the Prime Minister is reported as follows : -
The policy of the Labour party has been and is along the lines of the New Protection. Since our appeal to the electors for power to give effect to that policyhas been twice refused, and recognizing that many industries cannot exist, much less prosper, without effective Protection, we pledge ourselves, if returned to power to amend the Tariff during the first session of the new Parliament to give effective Protection to Australian industries.
This is the first time in the twelve years of Federation that the fiscal incidence could in any way help the wheat industry of Australia, and it is the very time chosen by the Government to “ close down “ on their protective policy. If any action were designed to convert the great rural population of Australia into
Free Traders, it is the action of the present Protectionist Government. It is my lot to represent a country electorate, and I candidly admit that amongst the farmers there are many with Free Trade leanings. I have appealed to those farmers to patriotically stand behind the policy of Protection, but amongst the many arguments I have advanced, I have never contended that a duty on wheat could help them very much. This, as I say, is the one occasion in the past twelve years when the farmers had an opportunity to reap some advantage from the policy of Protection, and the Government have decided to deprive them of that advantage. Assuming that the figures quoted by the Minister are right, I have to express my sympathy with those who are compelled to pay high prices for foodstuffs, for high prices, no doubt, impose hardship on many poor families. But bread, which has been called the “ staff of life,” is not one of the household commodities that is most costly. I suppose that the increase in the price of wheat would not represent more than1s. per week to an average family of four persons. Taking it that there are 7,000,000 bushels of wheat in Australia, this means depriving the farmers of a profit amounting to £1,500,000. Perhaps I ought not to use the word “ profit,” but more appropriately the word “return,” because there is no profit in wheat this year for any farmer that I know. According to the Minister, there is a shortage of 7,000,000 bushels; and the duty of any Government in such an emergency as this, is to arrange for the free admission of that quantity. It is proposed to deprive drought-stricken farmers of £1,500,000 in order to provide a cheap loaf, not only for those in necessitous circumstances, but for all in the Commonwealth, rich and poor - Ministers of the Crown, members of Parliament, and members of trusts and combines. The Government might have consulted the States, as they have done in financial matters, and. acting as the agent for the States and for the people generally, purchased abroad the necessary 7,000,000 bushels of wheat, and secured its free admission into Australia. Such an arrangement would not in any way have affected the profits of the droughtstricken growers of the 30,000,000 bushels raised in this country, but would have placed the burden of the cheap loaf on the Treasury of the country, and thereby spread it over the whole of the community. I think the Minister of Trade and Customs spoke with a clear knowledge to the contrary, if it is parliamentary to say so, when he told us that the action of the Government was toprevent profits being made by speculators or large holders of wheat. It is well known that some seven or eight weeks ago, the Victorian Government fixed the price of wheat at 4s. 9d. a bushel, and we had it on the statement of the Premier of Victoria, and of the Commission that investigated the matter, that approximately one-third of the supply was held by speculators or grain merchants, onethird by the flour-millers, and one-third by the farmers.
– That was last season’s crop.
– Quite so; how could any but last season’s crop be affected under that investigation ? Then we have the evidence of a Commission that when they were appealed to under the operation of the Victorian fixation law, the holders of wheat outside the millers and farmers delivered over their supplies to the trade in order that those supplies might be converted into a cheap loaf, if such a thing was produced.
– I do not think that they did deliver over their wheat.
– We have the evidence of the Commission on that point. I pass now to the question of the harvest for the coming season. Does the Minister mean to suggest, in view of the excited state of the wheat market not only in Australia, but in every other part of the world, that speculative purchases have been made here ? His silence indicates his belief that no such operations have taken place on the new crop. As a matter of fact, the position is that the wheat from the present harvest is held by the farmers, except so far as the crop has been acquired by legal enactment on the part of certain States. We now have the interesting information to hand that the farmers of New South Wales, in defiance of the law. of that State, are carting their wheat across the Victorian border, and stacking it there.
– And selling it.
– I believe that both statements are correct - that the farmers of New South Wales are both stacking and selling their wheat in Victoria.
– A few minutes ago the Minister representing the Minister of Defence interjected that the desire of the Government was to provide cheap seed wheat for the farmers. 1 do not know -whether the Minister of Trade and Customs will indorse that statement.
– I think that our action will have the effect of making seed wheatcheaper.
– Let me tell the Minister that at least two States have already acquired sufficient seed wheat to satisfy the needs of those who are not in a position to purchase it. The Victorian Government have secured seed wheat for farmers in necessitous circumstances at 4s. 9d. per bushel, and the South Australian Government have taken similar action. The proposal of the Minister of Trade and Customs represents about the last straw, so far as direct taxation of the laud-holders of the Commonwealth is concerned. I would not be very much surprised if an absolute uprising took place in the country against the action of the Government. I congratulate some Ministers upon having taken off the mask, though I sympathize with those honorable members who represent farming constituencies^ - the honorable member for Indi for example.
– Let the honorable member look after himself.
– How will he be able ti reconcile all this taxation in the case of the small farmers-
– .The honorable member is not worrying about the small farmers.
– I am here by the vote of the small farmers. I am anxious that the honorable member should spend a holiday among his farming constituents endeavouring to explain away the action of the present Government.
– He will send them a few copies of the speech that he delivered yesterday.
– I have already shown how this proposal will affect the farmer. TI will deprive him, at the very least, of the benefit of a protection of about 11 1/4 dper bushel. If there be anything in the declared fiscal policy of the Ministry, if they desire to establish Australian in dustries, do they imagine that the agricultural industry will be stimulated by this proposal?
– I do not think that it will be injured by it. I do not believe it will mean that one acre less will be cultivated.
– For the time being there may not be. But the action of the Government in depriving the farmers of a protection of about ls. per bushel upon their wheat will undoubtedly recoil on the industry.
– The honorable member need not worry about that.
– I am referring, not to the political aspect of the matter, but to the effect of this proposal upon the farming industry. However, it is quite idle to bump one’s head against a stone wall by representing to the Government the necessity which exists for relieving the agricultural community of taxation. Every day the Ministry are adding to the farmer’s burden, so that eventually they must kill the “ goose that lays the golden egg.” While we are doing our best to attract immigrants to the Commonwealth, this beautiful advertisement goes forth to the world that the Government have removed from this industry the only protection which it enjoyed, for the purpose of providing a cheap loaf for many of those who are well able to pay for it. Seeing that there is a shortage of wheat in Australia this year to the extent of 7,000,000 bushels, surely the proper course for the Government to have taken was to meet that deficiency, not by imposing further disabilities upon the farmer, but by spreading it over the entire community. Instead of doing that they are endeavouring to strangle ari industry which, in the present disastrous year, is unable to pay its own way.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs) [2.5SJ. - The Minister of Trade and Customs is seeking to introduce an entirely new principle in the Tariff administration of the Commonwealth. He will recollect that when the first Tariff was submitted to this’ Parliament we were suffering from a drought which extended over the whole of Australia with the exception, probably, of Western Australia. On that occasion the House strongly expressed the view that to recognise cases of individual hardship in times of emergency would give- rise to many difficulties, and deprive certain sections of the community of Tariff benefits which they would otherwise enjoy. What is the position to-day? Drought prevails throughout the land. We are bound to be faced throughout the Commonwealth with a shortage of wheat and a shortage of money. To whom do the Government propose to extend relief? They will not suspend the operation of certain duties to benefit the farming population, but, instead, they propose to levy heavy burdens upon them, and to sweep away the only measure of protection which they have hitherto enjoyed. In the Minister’s own constituency there are hat mills, which are to receive an increased grant of protection, so that the farmers will have to pay more for their hats, whilst being themselves deprived of all protection. Only the other day the honorable member for Brisbane advocated the suspension of certain duties, but his proposal was absolutely scouted by the Ministry. At times there are dry seasons in Queensland, as there are in other parts of the world. If sugar grown in Queensland does not supply the whole of the requirements of the Australian market, does the Minister propose to reduce the sugar duties’! Yet that is what this new principle really means. By passing this proposal we are laying down a new precedent for future- Tariff matters, that if any industry, owing to certain local calamities, is not able’ to supply the whole of the Australian market, the Customs duty protecting that industry must be removed, and we are to have free imports from abroad, which can be sold at a lower rate in order to compete with the article produced in Australia under extraordinary conditions. I ask the Minister to hold his hand.
– No; the thing is there, and it is going to remain.
– I ask the Minister to realize what he is doing. He has not given us a satisfactory explanation of his action. I believe that his proposal is simply pandering to the city populations, already highly protected by other duties. In fact, I believe that this is what the Minister intends. The result of his action will be highly disappointing to the primary producers who have always willingly taken their share of the cost incidental to the protection- of Australian industries generally. Many of theprimary producers are pronounced Protectionists, because they realize the value of Protection to them in many ways, but the present action will come as a great disappointment to them. I am sorry that the Minister has not had a little of the spirit of the late C. C. Kingston, who was faced with a similar position, for then we would not have had this appalling blunder, which is introducing a principle that goes further than the honorable member intends.
.- I have a clear recollection of the ridicule with which the Minister and some honorable members greeted an amendment that I proposed the other day to the Customs Bill. . But what I proposed, and which the Minister then ridiculed, he now adopts.
– You must have’ convinced, him.
– I do not think so. The logic of facts must have convinced him. I pointed out that there was likely to be a shortage of wheat which would warrant our giving the Minister power to suspend duties affecting the necessaries of life, and I took up the clear and unequivocal stand that if there should be a shortage in the production of the necessaries of life in Australia we should not burden the people by the imposition of duties on importations.
– What about sugar? That is in the same position.
– Would you apply your principle to tools of trade?
– I shall come to that. My proposition was that in time of war things necessary for the sustenance of the people should not be loaded with Customs duties, but I was laughed at.
– Not for that.
– The honorable member for Maranoa in one of his vivid deliverances at that time-
– He made a “yes-no” speech.
– He made a rather clever speech in trying to support me.
– My contention was that no Minister should have the right to alter the Tariff at his own sweet will.
– My mistake was in proposing that the Minister should have the power. I should have proposed to give the power to the Governor in
Council, as Ministers are now suggesting in the motion before the Committee. The honorable member for Barrier was the only honorable member who had the courage of his Free Trade convictions. In reply to the interjections of the honorable members for Swan and Darling Downs concerning the duty on sugar and other things, the only logical deduction of their contention, if it is pushed to its proper conclusion, is that the limitation of the production of any article immediately establishes an argument in favour of having no Customs duty upon it. As a matter of fact, in Australia, there is in the dried fruit industry at Mildura a deliberate method of limiting production in order to keep up the price of the article produced. There are certain goods for which the public pay the wholesale rate of 4id. per lb., but which the producers admit, on sworn evidence, can be produced at a profit at 3d. per lb.
– I challenge that statement.
– The truth of my statement is to be found in the evidence taken by the Fruit Commission. In answer to a question as to the price at which fruit could be profitably produced, the reply of a witness was that it could be produced profitably at 3d.
– The honorable member is probably speaking of the price at which fruit can be delivered at the packing house, and not of the finished article ready for the market.
– I am speaking of the actual price the grower requires. This admission shows how an article that might, and ought to be, a regular useful diet of the people is being manipulated in order to secure high prices. According to the argument of the honorable member for Darling Downs, when pushed to its logical conclusion, all that would be necessary to establish a case for the abolition of the Customs duty would be the limitation of production rendering importation necessary. What the Government intend to do, and what we desire, is the encouragement of the production of sufficient goods in Australia for our own requirements, obviating the necessity for any importations. How does that position affect the matter of wheat supply ? We are faced with a shortage of wheat, a commodity which is absolutely necessary for the health and welfare of the people. The people must have bread, but, unfortu nately, the farmers of Australia, owing to unfortuitous circumstances, have not been able to produce sufficient wheat for our requirements, and therefore we have no option but to import. Even if we retain the duty, importations will not be prevented, and the question for us to consider is whether we should make the wheat we import for the purpose of making it into bread as cheap as possible, or whether we should maintain it at a fictitious value in order to benefit a few wheat speculators. No class in the community is more deserving of the most severe strictures and most unlimited castigation than men who manipulate the foodstuffs. I have no sympathy with the man who, for his own private gain or personal advantage, manipulates the necessaries of life, and secures monetary gain, while other people starve.
– It is the worst form of fraud.
– And , particularly when it is organized, it is the most corrupt form of robbery. If times were normal the Minister would need to have very strong reasons for his proposal, and if this were a permanent arrangement, I would oppose his motion.
– It is not proposed as a permanent arrangement.
– The only justification for the proposal is that it is to cover an immediate and temporary difficulty. I am glad that the Minister states that it is not a permanent arrangement, because I realize that the wheat-growers, so long as they provide for the requirements of the people, are entitled to protection.
– But protection is only effective for the farmer when we have a crisis such as that now existing.
– If conditions, were normal, and there were not a state of war in existence, and a consequent unfortunate excess of unemployment, therewould be no justification for this proposal, even if we were short of wheat. But we are faced with the position that there are thousands of people out of work, and less able to-day than they have been for the last twenty years to pay extra for food, and this is the very time when opportunity is given for a remission of duties on goods which we are not able toproduce locally, in order to give assistance’ to our people.
– How muck assistance will this duty give the people per head ?
– That is not the question. This is the assistance we are able to give them. Whether it be sufficient or not, or whether it is the right method or not, is not the argument. This is one way which we have immediately available to us whereby we may cheapen the food supplies of the people.
– As soon as the country gets into difficulties we have to turn to free trade.
– The country is not in difficulties because there happens to be a shortage of wheat, but a situation has arisen which can be met by this remedy, which is the only one immediately available to us.
– What inducement is there to the farmer to increase his production if he is to be deprived of protection ?
– The honorable member for Henty has repeated a statement, which has been made previously in this discussion, that there is no encouragement to the farmer to go in for increased wheat growing, but the statement of the Minister that this is only a temporary expedient shows that the remission of this duty does not remove the inducement to the farmer to utilize an increased area for wheat growing.
– But you still make the farmer pay more for his bags.
– That is a matter to be dealt with when we come to it. I am prepared to make conditions as easy as possible for the primary producers. Every man of us, no matter what he represents, or what his occupation in life may be, knows that when the primary producers are doing well, we are all doing well, and when the primary producer is not doing well, none of us is doing well. It is all nonsense to say that one man or another man, or one party or another party, is opposed to assisting and,., protecting the primary producers. We on this side are just as anxious to assist the primary producers as are the members on the Opposition side, and I deprecate all this talk about the party in power being opposed to the man on the land. The primary producer is entitled to protection as much as any other man in the community, but there is nothing in this proposal of the Minister that is going to have the slightest effect, legally or logically, in hindering the farmer from planting out areas of wheat. Even if extensive areas were planted to-day, it would be months before there could be a harvest, and we could get any benefit from the sowing, and during that time the present abnormal conditions, which have necessitated the action of the Minister, might have disappeared.
– And the present Protectionist Minister would put back the duty for the benefit of the farmers.
– I should think he would. If that were not so, there is nothing in the argument of honorable members opposite who are objecting to the removal of the duty as being a step which is detrimental to the farmers. Immediately the present difficulty vanishes the duty ought to be re-imposed, and if it is not sufficient we ought to increase it in order to give the farmers adequate protection against any possible competi-tion from foreign-grown wheat. I only rose to emphasize the fact that the principle I was advocating in this House a fortnight ago is now accepted, and I hope that later on, when we are dealing with the Tariff, and I have the honour of again submitting a suggestion on similar lines, honorable members on both sides of the House who approve of the remission of the duty on wheat will not forget that special circumstances demand special remedies, and that there ought to be a reserve power with the Minister to deal with extraordinary conditions such as prevail at the present time.
.- The burden of the argument of the honorable member for Brisbane is that when there is a shortage, and prices rise high enough to enable the wheat duty to operate, we should strike it off, but we should re-impose it when there is a big production, low prices, and a surplus for export. That is to say, that the wheatgrower must be protected through the Customs when Protection cannot be of any use to him, and when the duty is of any use we must strike it off. I quite appreciate that in the present circumstances, with the shortage of wheat, the existence of a state of war, and the prevalence of drought - although the war is the least influence in connexion with the price of wheat - there is a very strong inducement to the Minister of the day to take extraordinary means in order to deal with an extraordinary situation. At the same time, I think that the Protectionist farmer will be given very scant courage in the growing of wheat, and also in his general support; of a Protectionist policy, if he comes to the conclusion that the duties, which he believes might sometimes be protective and might have a steadying influence on prices, are to be struck off every time there is a shortage. The present position of the Protectionist farmer, as far as I, a representative of a f arming district and a supporter of a Protectionist policy, can ascertain, is that he believes that the primary products of the soil should receive protection alongside with the production of the secondary in- dustries. I recognise that even a Protectionist wheat-grower knows perfectly well that the wheat duty is not immediately operative, that it operates only in extraordinary times of drought and shortage. But there is a fundamental principle underlying the whole policy, and he believes that there is a possibility of the duty oil wheat steadying the prices in certain seasons of heavy production elsewhere. We know that a protective duty is not imposed for the purpose of giving immediate Protection in times of normal production and importation, but one of the most valuable phases of the Protectionist policy is that it prevents dumping in certain seasons when there is a surplus. The farmer, therefore, knows that there is a steadying influence exercised by the duty on wheat, and he has loyally supported Protection as a national policy. I am satisfied, however, that for some considerable time the farmer in the wheatgrowing districts has looked upon the policy of Protection in respect of the secondary industries as a policy which is inducing centralization throughout Australia.He believes that that policy has had the effect of centralizing in large factories most of the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth.
– What do you mean by secondary industries?
– The manufacturing industries. The primary producer raises the raw material, and the secondary phase of the production is its conversion by the manufacturers into the finished article. The one is a primary producer, the other a secondary producer, but both are equally valuable units of the community. I am not attacking the Protectionist principle at all, but point ing out that for a considerable time there has been a belief on the part of wheat-growers that the tendency of the Protectionist policy has been to centralize a large number of factories in the towns, and that such aggregation has had the effect of enormously helping the Labour policy of the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that that feeling has been growing for a considerable time amongst a number of sound Protectionist farmers. The farmer who is a Protectionist believes that the Protectionist policy should operate all round. I ask the Minister whether this was the only way in which he could do something to relieve the situation? Although I introduced a deputation to the Minister some time ago, and have asked him several questions on the subject here, I have refrained from asking him to suspend the duties on fodder. In Australia we grow something like 3,250,000 tons of hay per year, and consume the whole of that quantity. It is estimated that in Victoria this year there will be a shortage of fully 40 per cent. If that is the case all over Australia, probably the shortage will be 1,000,000 tons. Fodder for cattle is absolutely essential to the putting in. of more wheat for next season. In my district, which, I may say, is the largest wheat-growing constituency in this State, 90 per cent of my constituents will have to buy seed wheat, and, as an immediate expedient, I am not prepared to say that they may not welcome the suspension of the wheat duty. Some farmers will welcome the proposal as a means of getting seed wheat a little morecheaply than otherwise they could do. I can understand that the position is an acute one.
– Much greater relief would come from the suspension of the fodder duties.
– Yes. The Minister, having suspended the duty on wheat, should have suspended the fodder duties, because fodder is as essential as. seed wheat to the putting of large areas under wheat for next year. The position of theMinister is an inconsistent one. I am prepared, and have been prepared as a Protectionist, to support the Protectionist policy and to retain the duty on wheat in existing circumstances, because I believe that fundamentally it is dangerous to interfere with and render unstable that which people believe to be a stable policy. If this course is to be taken in the case of wheat because there happens to be a temporary shortage, why should it not be taken all round? Why should not the Minister suspend the duty on every commodity of which there is proved to be a shortage in the community? The reason for the very large importations of most of the goods we use is that we do not manufacture a sufficiency or do not manufacture the goods at all. If there is a shortage in any one of these lines, is there not a justification, assuming tEat the article has reached a famine price, as sometimes occurs, for a section of the community immediately representing that particular interest to ask the Minister to suspend the duty in order that the goods may be cheapened to the community? If honorable members are going to suspend the duties, oven on extraordinary occasions, in order to bring down the prices of commodities, they will completely undermine and upset the Protectionist policy of the Commonwealth. That, it seems to me, would be a very dangerous thing to do. So far a large section of the farmers, as we all know from the return of Protectionist members to this House, have loyally supported the Protectionist policy. I might divide my wheat-growers into two classes; one believes in having no wheat duty, but he says that consistently with that position there shall be no duty on agricultural machinery or any other product which the farmer uses. The Protectionist farmer is not able to state that, generally speaking, the duty on wheat is an effective duty, but he says that it is part of the policy df the Commonwealth, which he loyally supports, and might have a steadying influence on prices. That it can exercise a material influence on prices we know is not true, because we export more wheat than we consume. If the exportation of wheat is not to continue, wheat growing will cease to be an industry. As wheat is an exportable product, the. duty on the article is generally inoperative. I am very sorry to think that in present circumstances the Government have seen fit to propose taxes to be levied almost wholly on the lands of the community. I am not going to speak of the particular kinds of lands on which taxation is to be levied, but most of the new taxation is to be raised directly from the soil. On the other hand, the Government have imposed a revenue duty on cornsacks, the raw material of the farmer, and immediately following that imposition he is singled out in connexion with the wheat duty as the individual whose protection is to be disturbed, because there is a shortage of wheat in the Commonwealth. Possibly the action of the Minister may meet with the general approval of the community. I believe that it would have been possible for the States to have managed this business better, and probably if they had managed the business it would not have been necessary for the House to take any action. I am not referring to any particular State. The principle which has been introduced by the Minister is one which might work very badly in the building up of the general policy of Protection. In present circumstances, I regret very much the proposal of the Minister, although it will serve the wheatgrowers in my electorate who have to buy seed wheat. The proposal will be welcomed by those persons to some extent, and the consumer will welcome it as a means of securing to him a cheaper loaf, but viewed from the Protectionist standpoint it introduces a dangerous principle. Having once decided to suspend the duty on wheat during the period of the present drought, the Minister should, in order to be consistent, have suspended the fodder duties in order that the farmers might have an equally necessary commodity to secure the cultivation of a larger area next year. From whichever stand-point it is regarded, the proposal is certainly a blow aimed, at the established Protectionist policy of the country.
– I must confess that I am not in agreement with some of my colleagues on this side in regard to the attitude of the Minister on this particular question. I, as a consumer, and speaking on behalf of other consumers, welcome the proposal. My only regret is that it does not go quite far enough. The Minister has stated that this year there will be a shortage of 7,000,000 bushels in the quantity of wheat, necessary for home consumption. I think that some action of this kind should be taken, because we shall need to import wheat in order to make up that deficiency and prevent the price of bread from going up.
– I think that that is a fair estimate.
– This action will tend to prevent the price of bread from being unduly increased, which is a great consideration to the masses of the people. We must have regard rather to the interests of the community as a whole than to those of any section, whether they be primary producers or manufacturers. Any action that can be taken to prevent the cornering of foodstuffs should be taken by whatever Government may be in power. Such action will always have my cordial support. The cornering or attempted cornering of the people’s staple food supplies I regard as a crime against the community at large. I urge the Minister to go further. I am entirely in agreement with those who hold that the primary producers should not be subjected to unnecessary disabilities. One of the disabilities that have been imposed on the farmers is the duty on cornsacks; that duty has been objected to by representatives of the farming community. The farmers object to it because it requires them to pay more for the cornsacks which they have to use. A further handicap upon the farming industry is the duties on agricultural implements and machinery, and upon other things required for farming operations. I should like the Minister to recognise that the farmer needs encouragement. That -encouragement can best be given by removing taxation from the machinery, implements and material that he uses - taxes which now add materially to the cost of farming. The honorable member for Wimmera has pointed out that the farmer himself will benefit by the free importation of wheat, because at the present time there is a shortage of seed wheat for the next sowing. Seed wheat will be cheaper now that the duty on wheat has been removed than it would have been had the duty remained in operation. That will be a. decided gain to farmers who have to purchase seed wheat. The normal market price of wheat, however, is not likely to be affected, because the cost of freight and insurance is in itself a considerable protection against undue competition from abroad, enabling tile locally produced wheat to compete successfully against the imported wheat. As a consumer, and speaking on behalf of consumers, I am glad that action has been taken which will prevent the price of bread from being unduly increased. I welcome any steps that may be taken, especially in a time of drought and of war, to prevent the inflation of the prices of the necessaries of life. There are some who can afford to pay higher prices, but the majority who are wage-earners cannot bear a heavier burden than that which is now imposed on them. The purchasing power of their earnings has been materially reduced by the imposition of duties on the many articles which they have to purchase to meet their daily needs. A tax which would increase thebread bill of a family by ls. per week would be a very serious thing to most wage-earners.
– I mean ls. per week per family.
– Even an increase of ls. per week per family would be a most serious matter for most housewives, who have to consider carefully the parcelling out of every penn of their weekly house-money. Anything tending to alleviate the condition of thecommunity at large will have my support. N/either the farmers nor any other section of the community should benefit at the expense of the community at large.
– But why single out the farmer for the imposition of disabilities?
– I donot think that he should be so singled out,, but that a similar course of action should be taken regarding the things the farmerneeds in the prosecution of his industry. The Minister has pointed out that the price of bread would have risen to almost a prohibitive figure if he had not taken the action which he has taken. The farmers would be the last men in the world to wish to bring about such a state of things as would arise from the excessive dearness of bread. As it is, they will not be affected adversely. On the showing of the honorable member for Wimmera, they will still be able to command good prices for their wheat, because the demand is greater than the supply, and they will be able to buy seed wheat, not at the prices now prevailing, but at the cheaper rates which will result from the removal of the duties.
– I seriously object to the declaration that the removal of duties means the reduction of prices. As a Protectionist, I hold that the imposition of duties does not increase prices, but that it regulates the circulation of commodities. Wheat is not much dearer here, according to the Minister’s statement, than it is in Chicago.
– It is nearly 2s. a bushel dearer.
– That is because the Chicago wheat corner has burst, and Patten is away in Europe, and cannot get back from the war area. If he were back, wheat would go up to 7s. or 8s. a bushel. We Protectionists hold that Protection does not increase prices, but that it enables the local community to produce commodities to replace importations.
– If that be so, why are we asking for an alteration of the Constitution to enable us to distribute the profits ?
– These alterations of the Constitution are going to bring about the millennium. I see her coming with white wings and spiritual robes, but it will take years for her to get here. Protection is a fundamental Australian policy. It is the current that circulates through the national “ veins. When Mr. Wilson was elected President of the United States of America he pro.posed to’ create the most prosperous nation on earth by reducing the American Tariff duties. He did reduce the duties, and in the United States of America to-day there are 15,000,000 of people out of work, the exports of the country are valued at £18,000,000 less than the exports of the year before, and the value of the imports has increased by some £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. I do not believe that taking the duty off wheat will reduce the price.
– What are the Government doing it for then ?
– My honorable friend should remember that the members of the Labour party fight in masses like the German army.
– Do they?
– Yes, and so do their opponents. The people gener ally are under the impression that the removal of a duty will reduce the price of an article. I protest against the suggestion that the removal of duties has a tendency to reduce the price of the dutiable articles. That is not so where we have proper Protection, and not a “shandygaff” Protection; where we have real Protection, and not a compromise of expediency with the devil, where the devil always wins.
– Protection is the devil anyhow !
– No, it is Christianity. Under Protection we can establish local factories and great national institutions and organizations. I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs proposes merely the temporary suspension of the duty on wheat, to meet the present crisis. The crisis covers a multitude of sins. Our farmers have to contend against insects, drought, and other visitations, and they have comparatively poor crops in the best seasons. The wheat average of Australia in the best seasons is only 12£ bushels, whilst the average in Germany is 33 bushels to the acre. The oat crop of Australia averages only 21 bushels to the acre, whilst the average is 44 bushels in Germany and France. We have further to consider the high rates of interest which the Australian farmer must pay. I doubt whether there is one farmer in Australia who has been able to secure an overdraft at less than 6 per cent.
– In South Australia a farmer can secure a loan on mortgage for 4^ per cent, from the State Savings Bank.
– That may be so; but what does it amount to when he pays the lawyer for making out the transfer ?
– Lawyers are not employed for the purpose. In South Australia the authorities of the Savings Bank charge nothing for the transfers.
– That makes a difference; but what has the farmer to pay for stamp duty ?
– That is not very big.
– Whatever it is it goes to increase the interest rate. Then, if the farmer wants £500, he must take it all at once, aud may have to lose interest on £400 of it for a year.
– He can get the money as he requires it.
– Buthe cannot get it as he wants it at 4½ per cent. I have been in this business too long not to know that. In Germany or France a farmer can get money at 3½ to 4 per cent., on the overdraft, or Scotch credit system. Honorable members should not forget that in Australia to-day our public and private debt amounts to the sum of £700,000,000. The farmers of Australia have to produce £35,000,000 for interest every year. The land and the farmers are the national sources of the wealth of Australia. We might burn down our big cities, but if we keep our farmers on their farms they will later build greater cities than any we have in Australia to-day, but burn out our farmers, and we city men must stew in our own gravy. What we should do is to make it as easy as possible for our farmers to cultivate the soil. We should give them every encouragement. When we are dealing with the Commonwealth Bank Bill, I shall have something to say about cheap money.
– I thoroughly agree with the action of the Government, but I do not think they have adopted the simplest method to give effect to their desire. It would have been quite as effective if the Minister of Trade and Customs had merely proposed a suspension rather than the repeal of the duty on wheat. The Minister has intimated that it is not the intention of the Government that the proposed repeal of the duty shall be permanent, but there will be considerable anxiety in the community as to when the duty repealed will again be imposed.
– What is the value of it except in a drought year ?
– I shall deal with that in a moment. I should like the Minister of Trade and Customs to give the Committee an assurance that the repeal of the duty on wheat is intended only to operate from the present time to the beginning of the next harvest in October or November of next year.
– I said definitely when submitting the proposal that it was to deal with the present extreme position, and that the Government would re-impose the duty when considering the Tariff soon after April next.
Mr.RICHARD FOSTER.- I am obliged to the Minister for his reply, which is, so far, satisfactory ; but I should like to know why his consideration in this regard did not extend to the duty on fodder as well as to the duty on wheat. In connexion with the outlook for next seeding time, the difficulty in providing fodder will be quite as pressing as the difficulty in providing seed wheat.
– And there is a bigger proportion of shortage in the production of fodder.
– That is so. There are districts in South Australia that have suffered more or less severely from the drought, but there is still in those districts an abundance of wheat for seed and for flour, although scarcely any fodder in hand and no herbage in the paddocks with which to face the coming winter. One phase of the great trouble, in South Australia more particularly, is that, during the summer and autumn, farmers within the rainfall area, where drought conditions hitherto have been comparatively unknown, will suffer more severely from want of herbage in the paddocks than from shortness of wheat.
– Then let us take off the fodder duties now.
– I can only recall two occasions, during an experience extending over thirty years, when a duty on wheat has been of any value to the farmers.
– Then why did the honorable member suggest just now that this duty should be restored ?
– Because I haveno authority, as a representative of the wheat-growers in my State, to deal with this question. The conditions are exceptional. Two causes are contributing to the very high price of wheat. In the first place, the price of wheat existing today is at a higher point than it would have reached but for the European war; whilst the second consideration, and one nearer home, is the existence of a drought which has deprived more than one-half of the wheat-growers of South Australia, at all events, of any result from their labours during the past year. It will leave most of these wheat-growers without any seed wheat for next year’s crop. Those who are in the happy position of holding wheat do not desire to obtain an exorbitant price - a price higher than hasbeen reached in Australia during the last 40 years - at the expense of their more unfortunate fellow farmers who haveneither wheat nor fodder.
– Does the honorable member know one farmer who, notwithstanding the high price of wheat, will make, this year, the cost of production?
– I know from painful experience that what the honorable member suggests is right. But the farmer is a man with a big heart, who would far rather have a quarter loaf than enjoy a big loaf while his neighbours and fellow farmers in different parts of the Commonwealth were without any bread at all. This is not only a humane, but a business-like proposition, because, in the interests of Australia and the Empire as a whole, we all desire to see under wheat next year the largest area ever cultivated in Australia. I wish to express my appreciation of the penitence displayed by the Minister of Trade and Customs in this act of grace. His conscience has been pricked very considerably in regard to the imposition of the duty on cornsacks, and in this, his latest proposal, he is trying, as far as possible, to undo that injustice. The honorable member suggested, a few moments ago, that the duty on cornsacks was not a matter of much importance to the farmers, since they would have very little wheat to put in the sacks. But that explanation serves only to aggravate his offence. Cornsacks are imported to meet the conditions of an average season, and not with a drought in contemplation.
– Then they must be here already.
– That is another point. In ordinary circumstances we could have snapped our fingers at the Minister and his duty on cornsacks, because the sacks would have been imported and distributed amongst the farmers before the new Tariff schedule was submitted. But the special war conditions prevailing so interfered with shipping that the first consignment of cornsacks arrived here, 1 am informed, only a few days ago. They have not been cleared, and they will be subject to a revenue duty, which is certainly unjustifiable from every point of view. The impost on cornsacks has to be borne despite the fact that cornsacks to-day cost nearly twice as much as they did two years ago, the price of jute having practically doubled. The farmers, or some one representing the farmers, will have to pay the duty, and carry these cornsacks over to next season, plus the duty and twelve months’ interest. Farmers, therefore, will be very heavily hit. If the Government had power to withdraw any portion of the Tariff schedule, I should ask them very earnestly, in the interests of justice and good business, to withdraw that relating to the duty on cornsacks. That, however, cannot be done. I shall not be at all surprised, however, if at a very early date the Government are not approached by at least one or more of the State Governments and asked to extend what they have already done in this particular direction by suspending the duties on fodder.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of Trade and Customs) [3”. 581- - I recognise that this subject opens up a wide field of discussion, but whilst the Government do not desire to stifle debate, I appeal to honorable members to curtail their remarks as much as possible, otherwise we shall be unable to adjourn for the holidays within the time originally proposed.
– I wish to support the appeal made by the Minister of Trade and Customs. This debate has made it apparent that while honorable members opposite, as the honorable member for Darwin suggests, fight in close formation, we on this side of the House do not. It seems to me that the Minister of Trade and Customs, in submitting this proposal, has split up my party. I have formed the conclusion this afternoon that . honorable members are Protectionists when we are going to gain something, and that we are all Free Traders when we think we are going to lose something.
– That has not been the position of the farmers, for they have been standing loyally by the Protectionist policy.
– Then I shall say no more.
– Provided it is understood that no one else will speak.
– Speaking seriously, I think that we ought to terminate this debate. I strongly resent the attitude of the Government over this matter. There was a definite understanding that we were to clear off the business on the notice-paper, but the Prime Minister is loading it up all the time.
– This resolution is not loading it up any more than an item in the Tariff does.
– The day has gone now, we are no “ forrarder,” and there is all this work still to be done. Since nothing can be done with this item now any more than with any other item in the Tariff, we had better postpone its discussion for the time being, and get on with some of the other business.
.- I want to combat the assumption on the part of honorable members opposite, and of some honorable members on this side, that it is inconsistent for a Protectionist to advocate the removal of the duty on wheat, or that the Protectionist theory is entirely exploded because it becomes necessary or advisable to remove a duty. Protection as a principle is not challenged, although the Leader of the Opposition says it is. We conserve our market’s for our own products when we know that we can supply our requirements, but when it is obvious that through no fault of the country, or of the people in it, we cannot do so, surely common sense dictates that we should meet the situation. Some one has said that consistency is the doctrine of fools, and it is time that some people recognised the truth underlying the saying. When our own production is in excess of our requirements, the price of the commodity is immediately levelled by the world’s price, and, conversely, when our own requirements are not supplied internally, the incoming commodities are regulated by the Tariff, and therefore the prices of all our supplies within the Tariff barrier are raised accordingly. We do not want this. No Protectionist is anxious for high prices. We want to conserve our markets for ourselves, and when this is done effectively there is no abuse possible. Provided that competition is possible, it is immediately generated. Our desire is that the competition shall be encouraged, and that the advantages of a Tariff shall not be abused. It, is for that reason that we have asked for greater powers, but that opens up another question. I am rather interested in the socialistic suggestion of the honorable member for Wannon that the Government should go on to the market like the State Governments, and buy what is considered to be thequantity of wheat required. That shortage cannot be definitely ascertained. I am averse to the Federal Government doing that in any case. The State Government are doing quite enough in that direction. All that the Commonwealth Government can do to meet the situation is what they are doing now. Wheat is not on a par with our ordinary manufactures at all, because, whenever, in the case of manufactures, we are falling short in our supplies, or the price is exorbitant, it is due to the operations of men or combinations of men - actions that are to be deprecated and are capable of being dealt with. The present situation, however, is not due to men at all; it is an act of Providence, and we are justified in meeting it.
– I regret that this proposal has been introduced, because it seems to me to be contrary to the principles that have been followed, at any rate by Protectionists. It seems to be altogether opposed to the actions and speeches of the Minister of Trade and Customs ever since he entered this House. I always thought he was an ultra-Protectionist, and almost a prohibitionist, hut I am afraid that his ideas are circumscribed by what is going on in Victoria, and that he forms his judgment from what he sees immediately around him. I fear that he does not take a wide view of the whole question. The Government of Victoria are quite alive to local interests, but the honorable member has admitted that he has not consulted any of the people or Governments of the States, and has acted “ off his own bat.” That might be very well if his knowledge was sufficient, but he certainly requires some justification for his action in taking away the only protection that there is for the primary producer - the farmer - while at the same time placing additional burdens upon him. The Tariff already proposes to tax his sacks and bags, machinery and implements, to the extent of about £170,000 a year, and if there is anything to be gained by the farmer by means of protection against the world, it is now to be taken away from him. Such an attitude cannot be consistent. The Government say in effect, “ Tax the farmer more, and take away from him any advantage that he might otherwise gain. At a time when the revenue is falling increase the expenditure. Make the expenditure as “large as possible, and finish up with a deficit” - a thing we have never done before. I may say that it is taxation which we would never have introduced. I put it forward as an argument for what it is worth, that if the late Government had remained in office, we should never have brought in these terrible duties and additional taxes against the producing interests. If the Minister of Trade and Customs says it is obligatory, it is so only from his point of view, and would not have been obligatory on our part. I remember that during the drought of 1901-2, and also in 1907, there were tremendous importations of agricultural produce.
– I do not think we imported in 1907.
– At any rate it was desired to make hay and chaff free at the time because stock were starving. I voted against complying with the request, although most of those sitting with me at that time on the cross-benches voted the other way, I noticed that the honorable member and most of his colleagues voted against taking the duty off on that occasion, although it was known that stock were starving, and there were tremendous importations ot hay, chaff, wheat, and other things.
– I think that during every drought they all voted solidly against taking off the duties.
– This is a new attitude of theirs altogether, and I do not think the Minister has given us sufficient reason for his action.
– We shall not divide on this resolution, and the thing is done now.
– That is no reason why I should not say what I think about it. The honorable member is going in an entirely opposite direction from that which he has followed on former occasions. I should not object to the admission of wheat free of duty if it was really necessary, but the duty should not be taken off in this way without saying how long the suspension is to last.
– The Minister did say that.
– It is not in the Bill. It was only a statement by the
Minister. Why did he not provide in the Bill that the duty should remain off for such-and-such a time?
– It will come before us in April.
– But the necessity for the suspension may not last so long. This seems to be the last straw in the penalization of those who are the backbone of the country - the producers’ from the soil. I do not know what has come over the Minister, who seems to be acting in a way diametrically opposed to his previous speeches and actions.
– Did you not want to tax tea and kerosene?
– The honorable member has tea and kerosene on the brain. He only opposes duties on them because he thinks they are unpopular. He is always trying to see how the cat is going to jump before he takes action. I am saying nothing about tea and kerosene, nor do I see why the honorable member should make that interjection. All I am saying is that the Minister has been inconsistent. The Government are doing now only what they have done ever since they came into power; they are placing extra burdens on the land-owners and producers of the soil.
.- I am sorry I cannot commend the Government for their consistency. Some six weeks ago I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs to remove the fodder duties in. view of the terrible drought. This I did! in deference to the wishes of a great number of my pastoralist, constituents, who themselves have forwarded a petition to Parliament. At that time nobody could possibly judge what the crop was to be, but we are now told “by the Minister that he has made inquiries from the various States, and found that there is no shortage. This is a strange statement, in view of the fact - though, of course, it may be a coincidence - that the ruling price of chaff for some weeks has been £6 or £7 a ton. Graziers and sheepfarmers should certainly receive some relief at the present time. By the removal of the duty on wheat, assuming that the Minister’s figures are correct, and that the total consumption of wheat is 27,000,000 bushels per annum, the incomes of the farmers will be reduced by ls. a bushel, or £1,350,000.
– Does the honorable member object to cheap bread?
– I object to “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” I have every sympathy with the workers who are out of employment, but thousands of farmers, who have lost practically everything, are also unemployed. Why not put a tax on the general community? Why tax one class? Those producers who are asked to give away £1,350,000 are also called upon to pay an extra £1,100,000 in land taxation, £147,000 in connexion with their cornsacks, and £28,000 in duty on their machinery. It will be seen that they are called upon to pay £1,275,000 in taxation, in addition to the reduction of their income by £1,350,000. Mr. Knibbs puts the average consumption per head of wheat, for bread purposes, at 5J or 6 bushels, <so that the retention of the duty means to each individual about 6s. per annum, or a saving in the cost of living of ltd. or lid. per week. In the face of these figures, honorable- members opposite are telling the people of Australia that their policy will result in making “bread cheap. How many unemployed are there? If there were 70,000 unemployed, who would be called upon to pay 1 1/4 d. per week, let the Government provide that sum from general taxation, and not place the whole burden on the farmers, who, with full benefit of their profit, will be able to pay good wages. Of course this matter does not affect, so far as I can see, a single member from New South Wales, simply because Mr. Holman and the Labour party in that State have commandeered the whole of the wheat, and fixed the price at 5s. Further, to prevent any wheat coming into Victoria from New South Wales, il,ev have, T understand, instructed the Railway Commissioners not to allow farmers to send any across the border. But what is the result? Numbers of farmers, who happen to live near the border, are carting their own wheat over , and I do not see why those who are dependent on the railways should have their position prejudiced in this way. My impression was that under Federation trade was to be absolutely free amongst the States; but, in view of the embargo placed on wheat by the New South Wales Government, it is high time the matter was looked into. If the duty is to be taken off, let there be an absolutely free exchange of wheat, so that the producers of New South Wales may enjoy the same rights and privileges as the producers in California and other parts of the world.
.- If the Free Traders in the House were looking for an argument with which to buttress up their fiscal faith, the Minister of Trade and Customs has most certainly supplied it. Here is a Minister who claims to be the chief priest and apostle of Protection in this country.
– I never made such a claim at any time in my life. The honorable member ought to read the Age!
– At any rate, the honorable gentleman claims to be a Protectionist.
– I grant that.
– Does the Minister for one moment maintain that his action to-day is calculated to support the Protectionist policy? No one knows better than he that the only time the wheat duty can possibly be operative is when there is a shortage ; and the other primary products are in exactly the same position. There is, for instance, a duty on butter ; and I ask the Minister whether he proposes to remove that duty the next time there is a shortage in that commodity, and we have to fall back on imports from New Zealand and elsewhere ?
– But we are exporting butter.
– And we are exporting wheat in most seasons.
– Not this year.
– Exactly ; but the time will come when we shall experience a drought in the dairying districts of Australia, when there will be a shortage of butter, and when we shall be obliged to import that commodity. Will the Minister take the same action then that he is taking now ?
– We are experiencing the best butter season that we have ever experienced.
– I know that. .But the Minister is evading my question. When a shortage of butter occurs in this country, will he be prepared to suspend the duty- upon that commodity? Similarly, when a shortage occurs in sugar in
Australia, will he take action to remove the duty upon that article?
– Why not?
– Because outside of Australia sugar is produced by black labour.
– Outside of Australia, is not wheat produced by black labour? I venture to say that if any wheat be imported into the Commonwealth this year it will be imported from countries which employ black labour.
– Not from Canada.
– We shall not import any wheat from Canada. Possibly we may get a little from India, and probably we shall get some from the Argentine. I repeat that the only wheat which we are likely to import this year will probably have been grown by black labour. In these circumstances, the proposal cf the Government amounts to an absolute denial of those principles for which they profess to stand. I admit chat Lt will be a popular move amongst the great majority of the people. Though the advantage to be gained is one which is more apparent than real- because, as the honorable member for Calare has pointed out, the actual amount involved is but small in the aggregate - the Government proposal will be very popular amongst the great majority of the community. But is it a fair thing for a Government whose members have taken their stand on the policy of Protection to turn round on the very first occasion that that policy would hit their supporters in the very least degree, and do that which is absolutely opposed to their principles?
– Is not the honorable member going to stand to his friends ? I am.
– Of course the honorable member is. His interjection has expressed the whole policy of the Labour party. They will stand to their friends and swallow their principles on every occasion that there are votes at stake. When we look at their financial proposals we are bound to admit that their aim is to crush the primary producer by every possible means. Look at the duty which they have imposed upon cornsacks. The only man who is hit by the Tariff is the primary producer. The attitude of the Government is a repudiation of the prin ciples for which they avowedly stand, and a denial of the policy upon which they were returned to office. I hope that in future country voters will know how to treat men who profess to represent the farming classes, but who turn down their interests on every conceivable occasion.
– I am one of those who do not believe in suspending a Protective policy on every occasion. But I believe that the circumstances of to-day are quite exceptional. If it were not for the absolute promise of the Minister that the suspension of the duty upon wheat will be only of a temporary character, I am certain that a large number of honorable members upon this side of the Chamber would not support his proposal. In 1902 we had the lowest wheat yield ever recorded in Australia, the harvest realizing only 12,37S,000 bushels. On the 12th December of that year the price of wheat ranged from 5s. 4W. to 5s. 6d. per bushel, and the price of flour from £12 to £12 5s. per ton. On 12th December of the present year, when we have an assured yield of over 25,000,000 bushels- I admit that there is a difference in our population - the price of wheat stands at 6s. 9d. per bushel and the price of flour at £14 per ton. What is the reason for the difference which is disclosed in these figures? Even if the duty upon wheat be suspended, I believe that the farmer this year will receive a3 much, if not more, for his grain than he received in 1902.
.- I was very glad to hear the figures quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, because it is only by instituting comparisons that we are enabled to appreciate the position that we occupy to-day. I intend to place before the Committee one or two phases of this question, not because I anticipate that my remarks will have any effect on the Minister, but because I desire him to obtain a fuller grip of the position from the stand-point of the producers than he appears to have at present. As the honorable member for Maribymong has pointed out, on the occasion of the last drought of a serious character experienced in Australia - I refer to the year 1902-3 - the wheat yield of the Commonwealth amounted to about 12,000,(00 bushels. It was then found necessary to import for food and other purposes no- less than 10,000,000 bushels of wheat. But, although an effort was made in this Chamber to suspend the duty upon wheat, that effort failed, and the quantity of wheat imported did not have a very large effect upon the price of the loaf. During the present year we have, I presume, an assured wheat harvest of something like 25,000,000 bushels, and it is assumed that, in order to meet the requirements of our population, we shall be obliged to import 7,000,000 bushels from overseas. The ratio of difference between our population in 1902-3 and that in 1914-15 is not commensurate with the difference between the present crop in sight, and that harvested in 1902-3 ; but the point I wish to make is that the grower in 1902-3 was under the domination of the world’s market, whereas to-day he is not under that domination, for the simple reason that only a few months ago the Minister of Trade and Customs saw fit to put an embargo on the export of wheat, in spite of our having more than twice the harvest that we had in 1902-3. This embargo against the export of wheat practically means that the whole of Australia’s wheat crop is retained in Australia for the purposes of Australia. The removal of the import duty will subject that wheat to a certain extent to competition with wheat grown by black labour, as pointed out very properly by the honorable member for Richmond. We are too credulous and hopeful if we think that we can get wheat from Canada. That Dominion is practically committed to supply all its surplus to the United Kingdom. Last year the United Kingdom had a shortage of 50,000,000 bushels, although we contributed 18,000,000 bushels, and to which countries in Europe that are to-day out of action contributed many million bushels. Russia will not allow wheat to be exported because it requires its wheat crop for its own use, and as Austria, Hungary, and some parts of France are in a similar position, Great Britain must look largely for its supply to Canada. What it cannot obtain from that source it will probably get from Argentine and India, while the removal of out import duty on wheat will mean that some of our shortage of 7,000,000 bushels will be grown by black labour in India : thus is Labour wisdom justified of her children. To disturb the political equilibrium that the farmer has been led to believe exists regarding his calling is not a proper thing to do. The farmers as a class have been truly faithful to the basic principle of our Federation - that there should be Inter-State Free Trade with some modicum of Protection against the outside world - yet at the only time that this impost on wheat can be at all effective, that is when there is a shortage in the wheat supply of Australia, it is proposed to take away that modicum of Protection. Therefore, .1 say that, in the circumstances, the inducement for the farmer to remain faithful and loyal to his political creed is to be severely shaken.
– Are you a Protectionist?
– I am a moderate Protectionist.
– What sort of a thing ia that?
– I can quite understand that the honorable member does not know what a moderate Protectionist is. He does not understand many things. When we have a Protectionist Tariff which will induce men to enter upon occupations, if these men become imbued with the idea that the protection afforded to them is to last only so long as it is not effective, they will probably suffer a serious disturbance of their political faith. I do not know how those honorable members on the other side of the Chamber, who represent constituencies containing large numbers of primary producers, can reconcile their position as members of a party which proposes to remove the duty on wheat. When they go before their constituents, they will have some ugly questions to answer, seeing that their party propose to do this, while at the same time they place a tax on the very bags that the primary producers have practically to give away with their wheat. The honorable member for East Sydney interjects freely. I like to hear city bushmen arguing about matters of which they know nothing. I take the liberty of questioning whether the honorable member understands the alphabet ‘of farming. If he did, he would not display the inability his interjections give evidence of. If we wish to raise a big question among the primary producers of Australia, let this motion go through without protest, and we shall soon be satisfied as to what the result will be from the wheat farmer’s point of view.
– I may be permitted in a fewwords to say something in protest against the action of the Government which ha* one direct object, and that is- the infliction of further penalties and hardships upon the primary producers: from the soil by a Government which proposes- to put increased Customs duties on - sacks, woolpacks, and agricultural machinery to the tune of £173,779$ and to increasethe land tax by £1,240,000, making a total of £1,413,779 extra taxation to be paid directly by the primary producers. The import duty of ls. 6d. per’ 100 lbs. on wheat is of no value to the wheatgrower when there is sufficient wheat grown in Australia for Australian requirements and wheat is at a reasonable price. But immediately there is an opportunity for the wheat-grower to get a somewhat better- price for his wheat the duty is to be taken off, and he is to be deprived of something to which he is entitled, and to run the risk of having wheat imported and sold against him, as our friends say, in order to give the consumers a cheaper loaf . Let us look at the duties that will have to be borne by the farmers under the new Tariff. They include potato bags, woolpacks, and cornsacks, £144,890; chaffcutters, £4,936; harvesters, £2,508; mowers, reapers, and binders, £7,297, and other agricultural machinery, £14,148, or a total of £173,779. It is admitted on all sides that the country can get along without cities, and that if the country did not exist the people in Che cities would melt in their own fat. How can we expect to induce people to deprive themselves of certain conveniences possessed by people in the cities, and go out and. populate our far-back country, when directly the opportunity presents itself the Government in power are prepared to penalize them by inflicting on them extra taxation on the machinery they use, and the bags they must have for their produce, and at the same time to hit them in another way by taking the duty off imported wheat.
-. - We shall, fight these other duties later on.
– We shall. I shall not deal with them now, but merely enter my protest against the action which the Government have taken. Although, perhaps, members on the Government side are not going to deal with this Tariff on party lines, I ask that each individual member- will view this question from the stand-point of fairness, equity, and justice, and if members do that I am perfectly sure they will see that these imposts are unreasonable and will inflict a great hardship on the man outback, who, at the present time, is very sorely pressed by drought and other adversities.
.- As a representative of a farming- constituency, and. as a farmer, with some, wheat to sell., I have little fear but that. I shall be able to. justify my attitude on. this question before my constituents. But if, on the contrary, I am mistaken, I. shall be much more satisfied,, in the circumstances, to be obliged to retire to my farm, than I should be if, in a moment of supreme trial such as the present, I were led aside by. any of the huckstering., arguments I have had to listen to. to-day. What ia the position at the present moment ? Though the figures are not clear,- yet, by their aid, supplemented by my own practical knowledge- as a wheat-grower, I believe that more than one-half of the. actual wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth will be purchasers of wheat for flour and seed. We know, too, that -the war may last indefinitely, and that freights and. insurance may rise. We know that even upon the most. extrava-gant estimate of. the harvest we shall have a. shortage of from. 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 bushels of wheat, the importation of which will be essential for the welfare of people who- are non-producers and, also for the wheat growers. On. account of the limitations of the Constitution, the action which would be . best for the Commonwealth to take at this moment of peril, is not possible; that is, to treat the wheat supply of the continent as we would treat the food supplies of a beleaguered city, by taking full possession of it and making the Commonwealth, responsible for the balance. I believe that that position is not now possible of attainment by the Commonwealth. But the Government have taken the only possible means open to them for the purpose of protecting the whole community.
– The Government could do what you suggest as agents for the States.
– The honorable member sought to make us believe, with that lamblike simplicity which is supposed to be characteristic of the farmer, that there is nothing wrong with “the present laws of distribution ; but we know that unless some action is taken to prevent wholesale robbery under the ‘present imperfect system of distribution, there will be absolute starvation amongst a big portion of our people, and, in addition, spoliation and robbery of a large number of the wheat growers. That is the position as it appeals to me. Those honorable members who talk about the removal of the fodder duties being of equal importance with the removal of the wheat duties are misconceiving the position. There is no analogy between the two duties. Every hour of rain and every change of conditions may help to solve the problem of food supply for stock, and even in the last resort, if we are faced with the alternative of whether stock or human beings shall die, we shall have little difficulty in apportioning our sympathy. It is also true that by using those portions of our fertile continent which are not afflicted by drought, and making the best of the conditions in those portions which are afflicted, by the growing of other crops, we can do much more to alleviate the difficulty in regard to feed for stock than we could by any interference with the fodder duty. The difficulty ‘in that respect is not a great one; I am a staunch Protectionist who is not willing to subvert his principles for any exigency except one of pre-eminent importance. The exigency of to-day is one of pre-eminent importance, and if,” as I believe, it is a situation that can never arise again in our lifetime, or, I hope, in the history of the world, we cannot reasonably cavil at extraordinary action to do the best thing possible in a set of disastrous circumstances. As I apprehend the situation, what the Government are doing is this : The wheat supply being short, we are going to provide means by which the exploiters of the present false system of distribution will be compelled to loosen the ropes they have put round the necks of the community, because, for the time being, our ports will be open to wheat from oversea. At the same time we shall see that the principle of Protection is observed so far as to insure that the wheat-growers will not be affected in the future. Surely, when we take the only means by which we can protect all parties we are not doing anything which is not justifiable upon the highest principles. Those people who think they can make political capital by indicting us before the farming constituencies will find that they are reckoning without their host. The vast majority of the wheat produced in New South Wales is produced by share-farmers, who have much bigger grievances in connexion with the initial stages of production and distribution than may be brought about by the cause we are now discussing. As I have mentioned on a previous occasion, if those persons who are so vociferous in their professions of a desire to benefit the working farmer, would display a little more energy and intelligence in attempting to solve the problem of setting reproductive labour free, we should have something to be grateful for. It is not their business in the hour of trial and trouble, when extraordinary circumstances are forced upon us, to try to indict us on principles and on evidence which would be relevant in ordinary circumstances, but which are entirely out of Court at present.
– This will hit the share farmers as heavily as it will hit anybody.
– It will hit very few of the share farmers. I heard one honorable member say that he did nOt know one wheat farmer who would make a profit on’ the year’s operations. I know many such, and ‘ I am sorry to say that the vast majority df this class will not make a profit this year, but will be sure of a loss. The system which’ I hope to see instituted, and which in the various States we will claim the aid of these gentlemen to institute and maintain, will bring about a state of things by which, working on a system of averages, we shall be able to provide for bad years out of good years. I employ a few share farmers too. I would prefer to make up the difference out of my own pocket than to support a proposal which would enable a very few farmers who have some wheat to exploit the general public, and to fill the coffers of speculators under our absurd system of distribution. I could easily ‘ show honorable members, if I wished to take up time, why Protectionists have no delusions about this matter. Although we believe that Protection can and does accelerate production, it can in no wise secure equitable distribution. That is why we support new Protection and State interference, or what our opponents call State Socialism. It is very easy to show that in such a highly protected country as the United States of America, although wealth has been developed to an extraordinary degree by the imposition and maintenance of a Protectionist policy, its distribution has become a scandal as well as a danger to the whole world. We are told, on evidence put forward by a late member of the House, Mr. Thomas Brown, in a paper he read some time ago, that in the United States of America nine men control £600,000,000. The Labour party i3 out all over the world for the purpose of providing by effective Protection - and it will never be effective until we are able to institute the new Protection - a system which will not only secure the greatest possible result for labour applied under scientific principles of production, with every aid that can be devised by the community or the individual, but also a system which will insure its legitimate, fair, and equitable distribution amongst the people who created it.
– Why do you not set up in business on these lines?
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that individual action is utterly incapable of opposing the forces which scientific swindling has developed in this age, and for that reason we want to introduce this system. In Australia we have not the power now. In the extraordinary circumstances which are apparent to all, the Commonwealth Government are doing the best possible thing - I do not say that it is tie best thing - and we hope by the institution and maintenance of this truer and better system with regard to production and distribution to obviate the necessity of even our principles being subverted in a moment of exigency such as the one we are going through now. The men who claim to speak in the name of the working farmer, as I have pointed out before, are never heard where he is being robbed and despoiled. I was corrected for stating that a man can put in and take out a crop, without including the cost of the seed and the manure, for £1 an acre, and the honorable gentleman, at one time Premier of an adjoining State, who contradicted me, said that the statement is an obvious absurdity. Nine shillings an acre, he said, is the cost of the seed to put in the crop, and he put down the price of the bags to hold the crop at 2s. I can honestly say that for the twenty-five years I have been growing wheat, the bulk of the seed, being produced on the farm on special plots, has not cost me 3s. a bushel, and if it did not take 7s. or 8s. to provide the bags to hold each 9s. worth of seed sown, the bulk of us would have been in the poorhouse. This only goes to show that a man who says that 9s. worth of ordinary or average seed wheat, when harvested, will go into 2s. worth of bags knows nothing about the question. That is the class of man we have safeguarding the farming interests in the State and Federal Parliaments, and voicing the grievances of the farmers. If I had the time, and honorable members cared to listen, I could tell them that on the Stock Boards on the local governing bodies, where I sat for years, and even on the Land Boards, whose presiding officers are some of the ablest men in Australia, the conditions which are brought about through absurd laws would simply appal practical men, and it is little wonder that we have men of intelligence and capacity flocking from the country to the cities. These are grievances apparent to the every-day eye of a practical man, but I have never heard them challenged by the gentlemen who, for the purpose of making a little political capital, try 1o indict certain action as being against the interests of the fanners. In the Labour movement we represent the legitimate farmer who works with his own hands. What justification is there for attempting to conduct an industry in a wholesale way under a system of expensive idlers when any man of ordinary intelligence may, with application and perseverance, become a fairly successful farmer? Why do we require a system which really means that we have quite a number of expensive people who never do a day’s work, but who farm the farmer, and claim to voice his interests and support him in every possible way?
– Did you not tell us a little while ago that you had share farmers ?
– My own relatives are share farming now, since I have come into the more unprofitable avenue of production, the Federal Parliament, where I quite realize that a man may be killed more effectively than he can be when he is working on a farm in the open air. Considering the position in which Australia finds herself, considering the danger that even the supplies which are now possible may be shut off during the next four or six months - I hope that it will not be so - has not the one practical action which is possible to give relief and to provide security been taken by the Government?
– Hurrah for black-grown wheat !
– The British Empire, of which the honorable member is so proud, and in support of which we often hear his eloquent voice, never questions whether it is black, brown, or brindle that guards it. I recollect the days when the party which he supports were dominant in my State. When I went out as a working reaper, I found ten Chinamen placed in a paddock to work with a party of white men. Whatever little troubles their industrial conscience might make is, of course, entirely due to their association, even though distant, with the party opposite, and not with that of which I have the honour to be a member. Notwithstanding the protest of the honorable gentleman who claims to be a representative of a section of the farmers, which undoubtedly he is - the misguided and benighted section which the majority of us were compelled to leave, and which I left in 1901, when we found that any hope of instituting a true system of land tenure that would put and maintain in the forefront the interests of the genuine land-user as against the speculator, was absolutely visionary, and must be given up - I have very much pleasure, though I regret the circumstances, in acknowledging myself as a supporter of what has been done by the Government.
Resolutions in regard to the land tax and the estate duty reported.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I do not think that it is necessary to traverse now the ground that was covered when the principal Act was under discussion in this Chamber. The present proposal increases the rate of the land tax, but the underlying principle is unchanged. As there is an exemption of £5,000 unimproved value, it is clear that a considerable estate may be held by any person free of taxation. On all taxable estates the tax is to increase uniformly until the taxable value is in excess of £75,000, when it culminates in a flat rate of 9d. in the £1.
– Instead of 6d. ?
– Yes. It cannot be denied that the tax is a heavy one, but, as I do not wish members to misunderstand my position - I speak for myself in particular - I say that I believe unimproved land values taxation to be sound in principle from top to bottom.
– If you commence at the beginning, without an unimproved value exemption of £5,000.
– There are good reasons for an exemption of £5,000 unimproved value in the case of a Commonwealth tax. In the first place, a taxable margin is left, of which the States may take advantage if they think it necessary. The tax, apart from the revenue that it brings in, helps to break up large estates. There are countries - we are at war with one of them - which take care that a large part of the unearned increment, as it is called, shall be returned to the State in the shape of revenue. Unearned increment arises from the united efforts of all the members of the community. It is not due to the exertions of the owner of the land to which it applies.
– In the case of broad acres that is a fallacious argument.
– The statement is true in respect of both broad acres and small areas. So far as town property is concerned, the tax is sound, because such property, even more than country land, increases in value with the increaseof settlement and the development of industry. Unearned increment is incidental to the prosperity of a country, and the efforts of every citizen contribute to it. The wealth that is produced from land in city or country by the efforts of any individual remains the property of that individual. It is only the unearned increment, which is incidental to the efforts of the whole community, and not to his efforts alone, that is taxed under this measure. As I have said, the tax tends to the breaking up of large estates, which must be beneficial to the country. No State in the Union will benefit more by this than the State of Victoria.
– Does the Bill cover all the land tax proposals of the Government?
– Yes, the AttorneyGeneral advises me that he is of opinion that no further machinery is necessary.
– We should be given some idea of the formula which will be applied to leaseholds.
– The formula is the same.
– We require to know what is the principle underlying the difference between the economic ‘value and the rental value in the case’ of leaseholds.
– It is proposed only to tax the economic value as against the rent at any particular period.
– Has the right honorable gentleman any tables to show how .that is to be done ?
– I have not the tables in my possession at the present time.
– This House decided, when the principal Act’ was ‘under consideration, that leaseholds should not be taxed. I wish to know how it is proposed by this ‘Bill to alter that decision.
– It is held that the economic value of leases can be taxed under this measure in just the same way as the “unimproved value of freeholds.
– My point is that leaseholds were omitted from the principal Act, and they are not included in .this Bill.
– I am afraid that honorable members are raising a point which, as a layman, I am not called upon to decide. It will be seen that the principle of the tax is not materially altered. It is intended to cover the economic value of leaseholds, apart from the rent, and an exemption from taxation of the economic value in the case of leaseholds up to £5,000 is provided for in the same way that the unimproved value of freeholds up to £5,000 is exempt from taxation.
– If the value of a leasehold is under £5,000, it will not be taxed?
– No ; it cannot be taxed under this proposal. If the difference between the rental value and the economic value of a leasehold at the time the assessment is made is only £5,000, or under that amount, no tax upon it can be demanded under this Bill.
– How does the Prime Minister propose to arrive at that?
– It will be quite a. simple matter under the formula.
– Has the right honorable gentleman any figures to show what revenue is expected from this source?
– I have, of course, in such a matter to take the opinion of the Commissioner of Land Tax, and he estimates that the return will be something like £500,000.
– -From Crown leases for this year.
– Yes, from leases, nob Crown leases only.
– We should like to know whether the Bill will cover mineral leases, miscellaneous leases, and perpetual leases, with a condition df re-appraisement after certain periods. This Bill does not give us the information.
– As one who has been Chairman of Committees, no one knows better than’ does the honorable member for Grey that the place to supply information as to -the details of the measure is in Committee.
– The principles of ‘the Bill are explained on the second reading, but the honorable gentleman has not touched on these points.
– The principle of thi* “Bill is the same as that of the Land Tax Act.
– Under that Act, leasesare not taxable.
– I cannot dogmatize on that matter, but I prefer to take theopinion of the Attorney-General. Laymen often discover that the views they entertain about the law are erroneous. I. can promise honorable members that before the Bill is reported from the Committee information upon all the points? raised will be supplied.
– This Bill does not mention leaseholds.
– I- am aware that it does not. I shall content myself now with moving the second reading of the measure, and will leave the discussion of these points to the. Committee stage.
.- It seems to me that the present is a most inopportune time for the introduction of such a Bill as this. The taxation it proposes will press heavily upon a very few people, and at a time which may be regarded as probably the worst in the history of the agricultural and pastoral industries of the Commonwealth. Many holders of land at the present time are in
St precarious position, and especially those who have large holdings, which they cannot readily sell, and who are obliged to spend a lot of money, in’ feeding their Starving stock. We have been led to believe that the measure was introduced primarily to raise funds to carry on the war. Australia, in. common with other parts of: the Empire, has made a splendid effort. The people of every section of the community have tried to do their best to raise the funds necessary to carry on the struggle, and it seems to me to be a great mistake on the part of the Government to interfere with the fine spirit which has “been displayed in this connexion by the introduction of a measure with so sectional an aim. A measure for the imposition of an income tax which would bear equitably upon all sections of the community would have been a far more statesmanlike proposal at the present time. “While great hardship must, in the first place, be borne under- this measure by men on the land, its effect will be to place them in such a position that they will be unable to give other persons employment, and so the measure will probably bring about the unemployment of a great, num”ber of persons throughout the Common-: wealth. Many of those who will be called upon to pay this tax will be unable -to pay it. It will, in some cases, practically mean the confiscation of their properties. Many holders of land have been unable to pay the existing tax from moneys to their credit in ordinary years. In some instances people have had to borrow to pay the tax.
– What about section 66 of the principal Act?
– The answer to that question is in the estimate which has been put before us.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong refers me to a section of the principal Act under which the Land Tax Commissioner, and other persons forming a Board, may grant release from the tax in certain cases, but I am afraid that the section will not be found wide enough to cover many hard cases that will arise under this. Bill. The Commissioner will have to administer the Act strictly, and if he does so many hard cases are sure to arise in connexion with which he may “be unable to see his way to grant a release under section 66 of the principal Act. If, as we are informed, it is expected that this- measure will result in the raising of a revenue of £1,000,000 over and. above the revenue raised by the existing land tax, there can be very few exemptions permitted. A bargain will have to be driven home hard in every instance if the Treasurer’s estimate is to be realized.
– And that estimate is made when a drought is on.
– Yes; it has been made at a time when we are in the midst of a serious drought. The original Land Tax Act was passed at a time when the Commonwealth was enjoying unprecedented prosperity and when landholders, therefore, if hard pressed, could sell their land without difficulty. Many people, no doubt, if they did not actually sell their estates, at least divided them amongst their families so as to reduce the incidence of the tax. In the more favoured parts of Australia, such, as the western district of Victoria; the Mount Gambier district in South Australia, the north-west coast of. Tasmania, and. certain parts of. Queensland, there are lands for which it is possible, no doubt, to find a good market even at the present time. Such lands can be sold in small areas, and there is generally a demand for it. But in other parts of the Commonwealth land is not nearly so saleable to-day as it is under ordinary conditions. Land which might realize £30 an acre in a normal season, if forced on the market at the present time, might not realize more than £20 per acre. That would be a very serious loss to small holders who were forced to sell. Many of these- rich areas are held in small sections, and their unimproved value, therefore, does not come within the scope of the Act. But the position is different in respect of large estates such as those in the Western Riverina, which may he of the unimproved value of £100,000. On some of these estates there may be heavy mortgages in respect of which no relief can be secured from the payment of interest, notwithstanding that drought conditions prevail. The owners, who are thoroughly familiar with all the work relating to sheep-farming, have a gross income of, perhaps, £4,000 or £5,000 a year; but, after paying interest and providing for other outgoings, their net profit is not more than £1,000 or £1,500 a year. The taxation payable under the principal Act on such an estate would amount to something like £1,000 per annum, and so would mop up nearly the whole profit. The Government now come along with a Bill to superimpose upon that tax a further levy of £500 or more on such estates, so that the owners will practically be made insolvent. The whole value of the equity of redemption in their land must go beyond their control. To pay this extra tax many of them will have to borrow. That should not be required of them; but men so situated will not, in my opinion, be covered by section 66 of the principal Act. The honorable member for Maranoa is well aware that many large land-owners, even in normal circumstances, sometimes find it difficult to make a reasonably good living. These men are going to be hit very heavily. It is most unfortunate that this Bill should have been introduced just at a time when the people are beginning to realize more and more how each member of the community is dependent upon the other. It will destroy to a great extent the good spirit which has been manifested since the outbreak of the war and which certainly ought to prevail. Production also is going to be hit very heavily by this proposal. Very few people will turn their attention to the land when they know that if they do they will be called upon to bear these heavy imposts. It is hardly fair on the part of the Government to bring down these land tax proposals at a time when we are supposed to be engaged in dealing only with non-contentious legislation. It was generally understood that this would be a non-party session; but in this Bill we see an attempt on the part of the Go- vernment to give legislative effect to one of the planks of their platform. At a time when we ought to be discussing only non-contentious measures, the Government are taking an unfair advantage of the Opposition. We know, however, that it has been decided in another place that this legislation shall be carried, se that we can do no more than enter our protest against it. It seems to me that this is not what might reasonably have been expected of the Government and the Caucus at the present juncture. The verdict, however, is practically a foregone conclusion, and nothing I might say would be likely to affect in any way the votes about to be cast by honorable members opposite. At the same time I regard it as the duty of the Opposition to enter an emphatic protest against this legislation and to back up that protest by their votes as soon as the opportunity offers. The Opposition have told the Government more than once that they are prepared to assist them in carrying any fair and reasonable proposal to find the revenue necessary to meet the war expenditure.
– But the Treasurer says that this is not a war tax; that it has nothing to do with the war.
– Then that makes my objection all the stronger. To my mind, this is an attempt on the part of the Government to sneak in a part of their policy. It is most unfair. I hope even now that the Government will consent to amend this Bill so as to bring it more into line with the principle embodied in section 66 of the original Act. If that be not done, then the Commissioner will find that he has not sufficient power to enable him to deal with many cases of real hardship that are likely to be brought before him. I fear that I make this appeal to deaf ears, for the Treasurer seems to be bent upon raising an additional £1,000,000 of revenue by this means. As long as that is his intention very little relief can be given to the land-owners, and unless we make specific provision for the granting of relief in cases pf real hardship this legislation will do irretrievable injury. A tax of 9d. in the £1 is outrageous. According to the ordinary canons, a tax should be imposed, in the first place, to raise revenue, and this tax might perhaps be justifiable on that ground during the present crisis, but it is not justifiable in ordinary circumstances. Assuming that the net return from a pastoral proposition is 5 per cent. - I do not suppose that it averages more than 3 per cent, in Australia under present conditions - a tax of 9d. in the £1 practically takes threequarters of the owner’s net profit. That is one tax alone, but the States have to come in with their land taxes. There are municipal rates to pay, and other outgoings to meet. This, therefore, is not taxation, but a confiscatory levy, and very few pastoral propositions in Australia can stand it. The man who wants to sell his property will have to take £30,000 or £40,000 less for it than he thought the market price would be a little while ago. That is not the way to encourage mcn to take up land, nor is it fair to those who have undertaken pastoral propositions. The only justification there could be for it would be a policy by which the Government was to take over all the land. That is one way to nationalize land, but it is a very unjust way. It is simply filching the land from the man who owns it by reducing its value. If the Government want to take a man’s land from him, they, above all others, should be prepared to do the fair and honest thing. Let them pay the owner a fair amount for the acquisition of the land. That is the way the States do it. If they want a man’s land they have it fairly assessed, and he has the right to put the matter to arbitration. The State then pays him what the arbitrators consider to be the fair value. The Commonwealth Parliament, on the other hand, simply lowers the value of the land until the Government can take it over at a very low price. That is not fair, and is certainly not what the general body of the people want. They like a fair deal, but this is not a fair deal, and yet we are coming to it very fast. If this tax is not put on for war purposes, it must be put on as part and parcel of the programme of certain persons who meet periodically in Australia to draw up a platform which our honorable friends opposite have to accept and put through this Parliament as soon as they oan. Ho outside pressure was brought to bear upon the Government or the Caucus, that I am aware of, to do this thing, aor am I aware that any pressure was brought to bear upon them even. by their own supporters in Parliament or by those who frame their platform for them from time to time. The Government have made a serious mistake, and we on this side of the House should indicate plainly that we do- not countenance it. I am here to do my best to assist the Government in any attempt they make to do what is fair by the whole community. We are all in this, and the result of the struggle in which we are engaged means as much to the poorest as to the richest man in the community. While every section of the community is doing its best to assist the Empire with men and money, the National Government, who should foster that fine spirit, do instead something which will strike a vital blow at it. That is a serious mistake to make at such a time as this.
.- I asked the Prime Minister, when he moved the second reading of the Bill, if it included leaseholds. He said he was assured by the Attorney-General that it did, but on examining the Bill I find that all that it repeals is the schedule in the original Act, substituting for it a new schedule embodying higher rates. Section 29 of the original Act, which this Bill, on the face of it, does not repeal, clearly exempts certain Crown leases from taxation in this language -
Notwithstanding anything in the last two preceding sections - which deal with private leaseholds - the owner of a leasehold estate under the laws of a State relating to the alienation or occupation of Crown lands, or relating to mining, not being a perpetual lease without revaluation, or a lease with a right of purchase, shall not be liable to assessment or taxation in respect of the estate.
That, I think, is as it should be.
– Is the honorable member quoting from the Assessment Act or the Taxation Act?
– From the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-12. I do not want anything to be done under a misapprehension. That section is emphatic, and is not being repealed by this Bill.
– Is not another Bill to be introduced to do that?
– I asked the Prime Minister if there were to be two Bills, and he said “No.” We ought to know at this stage the basis on which this taxation is going to be imposed. Does this Bill cover mineral leases, for instance?
– The point is, Does this Bill affect the position as to leases at all?
– I do not think it does, but the Prime Minister told me that it did. I am speaking of Grown leases in particular. In South Australia there are gold leases, oil leases, salt leases, and others, all under the Crown. There are also pastoral leases for twenty-one years on which the improvements are forfeited, and, at the end of the term, become the property of the Crown, and fourteen-year leases, with the right of re-valuation.
– These are not touched by this Bill ; there will have to be another Bill for them.
– There is the difficulty. The Prime Minister, when I asked him if there was tobe another Bill-
– The Prime Minister does not know anything about it.
– My only desire is that weshall not pass the Bill, and then find that it covers some form of land tenure that it should not.
– There is nothing in the Bill to tax leaseholds.
– The Prime Minister certainly led me to believe that the Bill covers Crown leases. If the Bill affects Crown leases in any way, we ought to know how it affects them. Are mineral leases included, a number of which pay royalties under the Crown?
– No one can tell.
– These leases vary almost as the night from the day in their conditions. On what basis is the economic rental to be fixed?For instance, in the case of a number of pastoral leases, the holders, in addition to paying the ground rental, have to go to the expense of erecting vermin-proof fences. The ground rental on the unimproved value may be nominal or very small compared with the present economic value, but some holders have practically to tax themselves £1 a milefor this fencing, while others comply with improvement conditions. I desire to know exactly what we are doing before we pass the second reading; and if the Attorney-General is prepared to give the information I shall be pleased to sit down.
– So far as I understand the honorable member, he desires to know on what basis the proposed taxes will fall on leasehold property.
– I wish to know, in the first instance, whether this Bill includes Crown leases.
– As the Land Tax Assessment Act stands at present, the proposed taxes do not fall on leaseholds held from the Crown, other than those covered by section 29 of the Act. But it is proposed to make such amendments of the Land Tax Assessment Act as will enable the taxation proposed by this measure to fall on Crown leases other than those referred to. As to the kind of leases which it is proposed to cover by this taxation, and the manner in which the value of those leases is to be ascertained, there is necessarily noline of distinction to be drawn between one kind of lease and another, excepting that which the circumstances impose.It is obviously inexpedient and futile to attempt to tax a lease the value of which would not pay for the cost ofvaluation. No other kind of distinction will be drawn. Whether the lease be pastoral, occupation, or any other kind, it is proposed that the new scheme of taxation shall cover them. The basis of value upon which the assessment is to be made will be the economic value whatever that is, and that value is to be ascertained in precisely the same way as the economic value of a freehold.
– That, I suppose, is the economic value, less the amount paid in rent.
– I shall state in detail what I conceive to be the basis. It is proposed to ascertain what the value is, first, by asking the lessee to declareit, and, secondly, by checking that valuation in the usual way by valuators employed by the Department. In our opinion, the taxable value of a lease rests on this foundation - it is that difference, if any, which exists between the capitalized rent now paid by the lessee to the State and the capitalized true economic rent, whatever that is. That is to say, if, on a fair valuation, a lease is worth, say, £1,000 a year, and assuming, as is done by the Department, that the capital value is based upon a twenty-two years and a half rental value, it follows that the lease is worth £22,500. If the lessee is paying £1,000 per annum there will be no taxable estate in that lease on which the tax can fall ; but if the lessee is not paying a full economic rent, there will be a taxable value not covered by the rent paid to the .Crown.
– What about the value of the improvements?
– The improvements are certainly not included in the value, but are deducted exactly as they are from the value of a freehold estate. In certain circumstances improvements may still further decrease the value upon which assessment is made. Suppose that I hold an improvement lease from the Crown in South Australia, and it is held under the condition that I pay 4d. or 6d. per acre, or 6d. per mile, per annum; that I clear a certain amount of scrub within a specified time, and that I fence it and do certain other things. Those are the conditions under which I hold that lease from the Crown. These are in lieu of, or partly in lieu of, rent. The same position arises under section 28 of the principal Act in regard to leases from private owners. That section provides -
Where onerous conditions for constructing buildings, works, or other improvements upon the land, or spending money thereon, _ are imposed upon the lessee, the Commissioner may assess the amount (if any) which ought, for the purposes of this section, to be added to the value of the rent in respect thereof, and the value of tile rent shall be deemed to be increased by that amount accordingly.
In a case where the rental is, say, 6d. per acre, but, in addition, the lessee has to clear so much scrub, or do so much fencing, or put certain improvements upon the land, the fulfilment of those conditions is regarded as part of the rent, arid consequently will diminish the taxable value upon which the proposed tax will fall.
– That remark applies to improvements to be made in the future, but what about improvements which have already been effected ?
– The improvements which have already been made will not affect the value of the lease; the economic value of the lease will not be increased by virtue of these improvements at all, because this is a tax upon the unimproved value of that lease.
– But how does the honorable gentleman arrive at the economic value of a lease and still allow for improvements ?
– The honorable member might just as well ask me how I arrive at the present value of a freehold estate upon which improvements have been made. I do so by a valuation of the thing as it stands, by deducting the value of the improvements, by a computation of the period which the lease has yet to run, by considering the amount of rent, capitalizing it, and estimating what is a fair economic rent, capitalizing that, and then taxing the difference, if any. The procedure is a little complicated’ when stated in that way, but in practice it will be found to work smoothly enough. I wish to point out that improvements put on a lease are not to be considered in any way as part of the value of the lease. They are to be deducted from its value so that the proposed tax will fall upon the value of the lease, less the value of the improvements whatever they may be. But I was dealing with those improvements which have yet to be made because they are not in the nature of rent.
– Take the case of a pastoral lessee who has twenty-one years to run, who is paying a rental of £.1 per mile, and who erects a vermin-proof fence upon his holding, on which he has to pay a rate of £1 a mile per annum. Would the improvement which is represented by that fence be considered as rental ?
– The honorable mem- ber’s question reminds me of the on© put to an applicant for a master’s certificate for the British Mercantile Marine. He was asked, “ There is a vessel ailing up the Thames, .she is of 10,000 tons burden, she is a turbine steamer drawing 21 feet aft, what is the name of her captain?” I will state the position in general terms, but I do not hope to apply general principles ‘to every concrete case which may be brought up. Where a lease is held upon condition that, during the term of that lease, or any portion thereof , certain things must be done, and these conditions are in the nature of rent, then they will be so considered in estimating the value of that lease. And this is quite fair, for they may be as much rent as is the payment of the actual amount per acre or per mile, as the case may be.
– The improvements are made for the lessee’s own advantage.
– But at the expiration of the lease the Crown gets the whole of those improvements.
– Not always.
– Sometimes it does. In an improvement lease, one of the conditions upon which the lessee holds it is that he will effect certain improvements.
– In Western Australia, he gets the freehold.
– That is quite a different matter. Where a lease is held upon the condition that improvements vest in the lessee, they are not in the nature of rent, because the lessee will ultimately get the benefit of them. But I call all these leases, which, in my own State, are designated improvement leases.
– They are called conditional purchases in Western Australia.
– I do not know whether the right honorable member is aware that conditional purchases so-called, which are really conditional leases, are now taxable under the section of the Land Tax Assessment Act, which reads -
Notwithstanding anything in the last two preceding sections, the owner of a leasehold estate, under the laws of a State, relating to the alienation or occupation of Crown lands, or relating to mining (not being a perpetual lease without revaluation, or a lease with a right of purchase) shall not be liable to assessment or taxation in respect of the estate.
Where there is a right of purchase, or where the land ultimately falls in as a freehold, it is now taxable. Where a lease is held upon the performance of certain covenants, and subject to the performance of these, the ownership vesting in the lessee, it is to all intents and purposes a conditional purchase within the meaning of this section. But I was speaking of a different class of lease altogether. If a man holds a lease; if, under the terms of that lease, he is required to make certain improvements, and if the lease contains a condition that upon its expiry the improvements shall vest in the lessee, then in such a case their capitalized value will not be deducted from the value of the lease. But where the carrying out of improvements is regarded as one of the conditions upon which a man holds a lease, and where, upon the expiration of his lease, they vest in the Crown, and they are in the nature of rent, their capitalized value will be deducted from the value of the lease. Where an improvement is effected by the lessee, either under the terms of his lease or otherwise, and those improvements, under the conditions of his lease, are vested in him, so that he may dispose of them when he disposes of his lease, the value of the improvements will not be deducted from the value of the lease, because, under the terms of the lease, he is already entitled to those improvements and to a * fair value for them when he transfers. The value of a lease may be determined by arriving at the difference between the rent paid by the lessee to the Crown and the economic annual value, whatever it is, and that value is to be ascertained in the same way as the value of a freehold is ascertained. It is based on the departmental tables, which provide for 4½ per cent. per annum, which is considered as a fair return for capital invested in such circumstances. In other words, 22½ years’ annual rental equals the capital value. Now let me say a word as to the class of leases likely to be taxed. A great many leases will not, in the very nature of the case, be taxable, among them the overwhelming majority of mineral leases. The precise value of a mineral lease for the purposes of the proposed amending Bill will depend on circumstances. Usually a reasonable rent is paid. Sometimes it is quite as high as the economic rent. In some cases the Crown reserves surface rights, and in all mineral leases there is a reservation of all silver and gold found thereon. These reservations naturally decrease the value of a lease for the purposes of land taxation.
– What about goldmining leases?
– I should certainly say that, in the majority of cases, goldmining leases would not be taxable.
– Even if they are paying big dividends?
– The question of whether they pay large dividends has nothing to do with the point. The question is, whether they pay an economic rent to the community.
– Their productive value would determine the economic rent.
The ground has no value apart from the gold it produces.
– No doubt due regard must be paid to the value of the output, but this is not the only factor in determining value. The value of land of a similar kind must be considered. The amount of land available for mining for precious metals is necessarily limited, and it follows that if we give to A a certain right to mine upon a piece of land we limit the right of every other member of the community by so much, and we therefore say to A that he must pay to the community an equivalent amount for the exclusive right he does not share with the rest of the community.
– In other words, you tax the output of the mine.
– Broadly, no doubt, output should be one of the material factors, but not be the only factor in determining the value of a mining lease.
– Would not a royalty on the output be the better method ?
– The tax will really be a tax on dividends.
– The tax will fall on a lease whether it is being used to the best advantage or not. Let me put the matter in this way: If there are alongside one another two pieces of land, one of which produces 30 bushels of wheat to the acre, and the other with precisely the same kind of soil produces nothing of any value, a man may come along, and say that the second piece of land is worth £20 an acre, and the fact that the piece of land alongside and many other areas close by have been able to produce large quantities of wheat will fix that piece of land as wheatgrowing land, and affect its value, although it has not produced anything approaching 30 bushels to the acre. In regard to mining, however, the situation is a little different, but the same principle applies. We cannot regard production as the only factor in determining value. I shall not push the matter any further, because all that we wish to lay down is the general principle, and this, I suggest, 13 sound. In the absence of data, the amount of revenue likely to be derived from taxing leaseholds cannot be fairly estimated, but the principle of taxing leaseholds is absolutely sound. We tax a man on the value of the land that he holds, and for which he does not pay a fair equivalent. He is taxed on that value for which he does not pay, a value which belongs to the people, and which derives its value from the community, as does the value of freehold land.
– We have heard two explanations of the Bill, one from the Prime Minister, and one from the Attorney-General. I noticed that the explanation given by the AttorneyGeneral was more pointedly addressed to the honorable member for Grey, but that honorable member found that the explanation was so abundantly clear that he did not consider it necessary to remain in the Chamber. I am sure that when the Attorney-General bludgeoned this measure through Caucus he must have made himself considerably clearer, especially in regard to the taxation of leaseholds, than he has done to the House. This is a new class of taxation. I am sure honorable members, after listening to the explanations of Ministers, must be perfectly clear as to how the value of leaseholds is to bo arrived at, and as to the rates leaseholders will have to pay, and practically as to what the tax will amount to. For instance, the Prime Minister told us that the Bill now before us contains all that is necessary in order to carry out the taxation proposals, not only in regard to freehold land, but also in regard to leasehold, but we have now had an explanation from the AttorneyGeneral, that, except in regard to the rate of the tax, this Bill does not affect leaseholds, and that a new Bill will have to be introduced to deal with them. This is a very important point, which will affect a considerable number of taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth. We have been told by the AttorneyGeneral that there will be a number of leaseholders in the Commonwealth who will not pay any taxation at all. What I desire to know is, whether this is to be classed as one assessment or two assessments. Are there to be two taxes, one for leasehold and another for freehold, or are the two to be put together? If the two are put together, I will vouch for it that there will not be one leaseholder in the Commonwealth who will not be chased by the Commissioner. The authorities will find out that a man owns a certain block of land in Melbourne, and that he is carrying on an enterprise somewhere else, as many men ‘do. A civil servant may have a small orchard at Dandenong or have some speculation in Queensland, and to say that the leaseholder will not be taxed because his leasehold will not be worth taxing is all humbug. They will find out that a man owns certain property in another portion of the Commonwealth, and he will be hunted to death like every owner is hunted at the present time. Honorable members say that they know what every leaseholder will have to pay, I can honestly say that I do not know what any leaseholder has to pay by way of land tax. .We are told that the economic value of the property is to be taken, that the fair rental value will be estimated, and then if improvements ure made under certain conditions, a deduction for them will be allowed. If the improvements are made under other conditions, the deduction will not be allowed. Take the case of pastoral properties in Queensland. Many of those properties were assessed only two or three years ago by the Government of Queensland, and I presume that that Government will not allow the holders to continue to rent the properties at an absurdly low rental. They have brought the rental up and up until they have reached what they consider a fair figure, taking into consideration the loss which the holders suffered in the past. Many of the people who put money into properties in Queensland would only get their capital back to-day if they sold out. Do honorable members think that the Government of Queensland have not assessed those properties at a fair value ? What is the position of countries on which the holders have had to go in for artesian bores? Take an estate, the saleable value of which I will assume to be £100,000. It has, say, 60,000 sheep on it to-day. As the sheep are worth £60,000, the value of the property will be £40,000. Then there would be fences and buildings, and perhaps four or five bores, which may have cost on the average £3,000 or £4,000 each. What is to be the taxable value of that property? The people on that land have in the past suffered to a very considerable extent, and the price at which they could sell to-day would return to them practically only their capital. Now I turn to the increase as regards rates. The Prime Minister’s manifesto, and his supporter when they were going about the country, said that any new taxation would be taken from those best able to bear it. Apparently these landholders are the people whom the Government consider best able to bear the taxation, the people who are endeavouring to keep their stock alive and to carry on their properties. Many people who went in for those large properties in the drought areas have- become involved to a considerable extent. Probably, in many cases, these people are on the verge of ruin. Numbers of their stock have died, and they are not able to get any more money with which to attempt to keep, the remainder of the stock alive, but. the taxable value of. their properties may be £200,000 or £300,000.
– Has the capital value of their land decreased ?
– The capital value, on the basis of the selling value, of many of those places to-day is absolutely nil.
– Can you tell me where those places are?
– I know plenty of properties, the selling value of which would be nil if they were placed on the market. Those places are mortgaged to a considerable extent, and the owners are not in a position to pay taxation. Under section 66 they may go begging to the Commissioner for a remission of the tax, but that is all they can do. What is in the Attorney-General’s mind is that the valuer for the Land Tax Commissioner will, on seeing the drought conditions existing on these properties, reduce the unimproved value to a very considerable extent. Mighty good care will be taken that the valuers do not go to those properties while the drought is continuing. Another factor that has an important influence upon the land tax is the very high unimproved value that is placed on property.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the value put on two years ago is necessarily the value today?
– In many cases the value put on two years ago is the value to-day. There are, of course, cases in which the value has gone up, but in other portions of the Commonwealth there are very many instances of the value having decreased.
– If the value has gone down the tax will go down with it.
– Yes ; after one has been able to get the land tax valuer to inspect the property the tax will go down. Let me refer to the plains land of this State, which I know as well, perhaps, as any .member of the House. The arable land there was saleable, and, perhaps, is saleable to-day, at £6 10s. or £7 per acre. Near by, just over a ridge is stony country, which it is impossible to crop, and the valuer says that if the arable land is worth £6 10s., this other land adjacent to it must be worth £5. Does any honorable member say that it is fair to put on land that will carry a sheep to the acre an unimproved value of £5? That is the way in which the valuations have been made. What is the land-holder to do if he objects to the land valuation? He has to go before the Court, and fight his case with all the witnesses he can get, and then comes the Land Tax Commissioner ‘with his valuers, and says, “ I . know a man who will buy the property at a certain price; therefore, that must be the value of the property.” The assessments have been very unfair indeed, and the mode of objecting to the assessment is also unfair, and involves the taxpayer in enormous expense. In a few cases ‘the unimproved value has been successfully disputed before the Court, but what has that settled? Nothing at all, because the Commissioner shelters himself behind these words, “Your case is not similar.” Therefore if any other land-holder wants redress, he too has to go to Court. In this way the Land Tax Commissioner .can defeat every application for a review of the assessment. As regards the rate, there have been many arguments to show that this tax really does not fall heavily on the small individual. It will fall very heavily indeed upon those who have large holdings. I am one of the lucky individuals, as I do not own very much land in the Commonwealth. I was fortunate enough to own a property, which I endeavoured to develop and put to the best possible use, in the localities where land could be sold. But if there had been no settlement I would have been landed in exactly the same position as those who went out into western ‘Queensland, ‘New South Wales, and the northern portions of Australia. The land tax does not affect the holders of good land in the Commonwealth to anything like the same extent as it affects those men who are stranded with properties which are not fit for closer settlement. The people who are doing their very best to develop the Commonwealth will be hit particularly by the land tax. I hold, and have always held, that if there is land which is fit for closer settlement, and it is situated in a locality where closer settlement would be advantageous, and where men could establish comfortable homes, and make a fair living, it is the duty of everybody to put that land under closer settlement. It does not matter whether the land is put under leasehold or under freehold, though I consider it is very much better for men to work their farms on the freehold system. In order to get at the few people who persist in holding land in these particular localities - the Attorney-General mentioned the State of Victoria - the Government propose to saddle the whole of the people of the Commonwealth with a very excessive tax indeed. A tax of 9d. in the £1 on the unimproved value means practically ruination to a. good many persons. It is, of course, idle to argue the point. I recognise that one is only wasting breath in speaking. This matter has been settled. Lt was settled some years ago, and it has been settled again in this Parliament. We ,know perfectly well what we have to expect. Men know today that if they continue to hold land in large areas it is .the intention of the party on the other side, if a tax of 9d. in the £1 will not break up the estates, to increase the tax to ls. That is practically what it all comes to. I issue a note of warning ‘to those who continue to hold large estates, that honorable gentlemen on the other side have not any excuse. They have not said that it is a war tax. It will be imposed permanently. The only alteration which it is possible honorable members on the other ‘side contemplate is to make the tax heavier than it has been if they get the opportunity.
.- I am ODe of those who, like the last speaker, know a little about the landholders in Australia. When I looked at this innocent little Bill, which was put before the House this afternoon without information of any sort, I was surprised.
The honorable member for Grey tried to get some information first from the Prime Minister and then from the AttorneyGeneral. He has had a great deal to do with land in South Australia, and therefore he knows exactly the position of original land-holders. The Deputy Speaker also knows a great deal about the lands of Australia, and he is aware that to-day the land-holders are hard pressed in all parts of the Commonwealth. If anything is likely to take the heart out of these people it will be an extra tax on land. Once we take the individuality out of men or stop them from making improvements the value of the land disappears. We know that since the imposition of the Federal land tax the value of land has decreased in a great many places in the Commonwealth. I am aware that the value of land has gone down owing to the drought and the war. I do not like to say too much on this subject, but I think that in Australia, especially in this Parliament, men do injury to the country by pointing out the great disadvantages to which the land-holders are subject, and in that way help to destroy the value of the land. The Attorney-General has stated that it is intended to tax all Crown leases. Hitherto such leases have been free of land taxation. This proposal will hit every Crown lessee in Australia. It does not matter whether a man is a large or small holder. If we hit a large holder he will not make improvements on the soil, and therefore there will be no employment for people. If holders do not improve the lands there will be no value in them. It is idle for any man to say that you can take the unimproved value of the lands. What have the great lessees done in Queensland and New South Wales? By putting down artesian bores, erecting wire-netting fences, and making improvements they have really made the value of the land. This taxation will take the heart out of the landholders. We shall not get capitalists to go out into the back country to improve the land if they find that directly it is improved the Federal Treasurer will come along with a proposal for a heavy tax. A holding is subject, first, to a local tax, next to a district tax, and then to a Federal tax. The present Government seek to tax people both when they are on the land, and when they are in the land. If this proposal is enacted there will be absolutely no incentive to a man to take up a piece of land and improve it as the pioneers did in the old days. This iniquitous legislation will not give any man the benefit of the exercise of his brain and energy, and the value of his property. The honorable member for Grey, no doubt, will point out directly that the Government are taking power to tax all kinds of leases. In South Australia we have perpetual leases, gold leases, salt leases, and oil leases. I hope that before very long we shall hear of the holders of some oil leases paying a very large dividend. In South Australia, shortly, we shall see the first bore started in Australia for oil.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The AttorneyGeneral said this afternoon that the lessees will be asked to declare the value of their leaseholds, but that in a great many cases will be an extremely difficult thing to do. Many leaseholds to-day have very little value.
– Their value could be set down at nil.
– Yes. The value of land varies at different periods. The Government have made a mistake in stirring up a discussion on land values at this time. Whenever anything bad is said of Australia, it is cabled across the world, and our credit is damaged, but when anything good is said it gets no publication. I noticed that when travelling in the Old Country three years ago. The existence of a drought or the occurrence of a flood would be cabled Home, but nothing was said about the mighty good season that some places were getting. In my district it would be impossible for a stranger to properly estimate the value of the land. Many properties there have been so improved that persons who knew them five years ago would not know them now had they been away in the interval. We have had a lot of battles on the subject of land value taxation, and now the whole question is to be opened up again. We were led to believe that the Government intended to impose taxation to meet the cost of the war, but no one can say that the land tax is incidental to the war. Our unfortunate land-holders have been at war with the elements quite long enough, and now they must be at war with the Commonwealth land tax valuers. I know of land in New South Wales not far from my own district which a few years ago was merely a rabbit warren, but an enterprising man took it up, fenced it with wire-netting, made dams and put down bores, and to-day the property is a valuable one. Do you think that that sort of thing will be done if the more land is improved the more it is taxed. It is to be remembered that when enterprise is checked it is the working man who suffers most.
– It is not proposed to tax improvements.
– Without improvements the land of which I speak, and much other land, would have no value. The working man is made to Bay even when taxation is imposed on city property. The merchants whose land is taxed passes on the tax to the smaller trader, and he again passes it on to his customers by adding a little to the prices of the articles which he sells to them. At the present time land in many parts of Australia is worth nothing. Some of our best country has suffered more of late than it ever suffered before during the last sixty years. On the other hand, happily for the Commonwealth, there are parts of Queensland and New South Wales where the season was never better than it is this year. What Governments should do in Australia is to develop the country by extending railways through it, so that stock may be shifted more easily in time of drought. Droughts can be largely provided against by the building of railways to allow stock to be easily moved, and by the sinking of bores and the conservation of water. The honorable member for Balaclava said the other day that it is in times of prosperity that one should spend. I say that it is in times of prosperity that one should save. In South Australia the Government always puts a little aside in good times, and I am proud to say that this year it is in a position to postpone the payment of its rents for twelve months, thus giving consideration to the Crown lessees in respect of the losses which they have suffered by reason of the drought. I should not object to the taxation if it were war taxation, because every man in the community, rich or poor, should be only too pleased to do what he can to help the Empire in its hour of need. A great deal more will be lost by the imposition of this land tax than will be gained in revenue. It will create a disturbance which is to be deprecated. An army of inspectors will be needed to travel over the country valuing leaseholds. At the present time most of the lessees have no money with which to pay a land tax. The next taxation that will be proposed will be income taxation, and then the Commonwealth Government will have imposed all the taxation that it is within its power to impose. It would not be so bad if the holders of land had money with which to pay the tax. All estates under the value of £5,000 are exempt from taxation, but returns have to be made in respect of estates worth £3,000 or more. It must be remembered that the holder of land cannot rely upon getting a certain return from it every year. To-day a good part of our wool is stored in sheds, unsold. How could the owners of that wool pay the tax. The produce of land has to be sold in the open markets of the world. The Government, therefore, should be careful not to harass the land-holder, particularly the lease-holder. The Postmaster-General knows what struggles land-holders have made during the last twenty years to settle themselves on the land. Many of them to-day, although they have worked hard, are walking about without a shilling in their pocket. They deserve the greatest consideration from the Parliament of this country, and I hope they will get it. The Government, in this measure, propose the imposition of an extraabsentee tax. There is a very great deal in this little Bill, though it has not required very much printing to give it expression. In the first schedule to the Bill provision is made for the rate of the land tax when the owner is not an absentee in these terms: -
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny and one-fifteen thousandth of one penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling in the taxable value by One-fifteen thousandth of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £75,000 the rate of tax shall be Ninepence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £ 75,000 may be calculated from the following formula: -
– What does that mean?
– It means a tax of 9d. in the £1, and men on the land could not pay such a tax and make a living. Provision is made in the second schedule in these terms for the rate of taxwhen an owner is an absentee: -
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £5,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny. For so much of the taxable value as exceeds £5,000, but does not exceed £80,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Twopence and one-fifteen thousandth of one penny where the excess is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable value by One-fifteen thousandth of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in. excess of £80,000 the rate of tax shall be Tenpence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as exceeds £5,000, and does not exceed £80,000, may be calculated by the following formula: -
That is simply ridiculous. A man is called an absentee because he removes from one part of the British Dominions to another. Why not permit men to go to Great Britain or to any of the British Possessions and live there for a little time without penalizing them ? They may desire to stay away from this country for only two or three years. People in the Old Land will refuse to send money to Australia for investment when they know they will be required to pay an absentee tax. No such tax is levied in Canada or in Argentina. The Governments of those countries are glad to welcome capital for investment. Fortunately, in Australia to-day we are able to borrow money, and I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has been able to borrow £18,000,000 for division amongst the Australian States. The right honorable gentleman secures all the credit for obtaining this money, hut the credit is really due to the Australian people who, by their thrift and industry, and the way in which they have worked their land, have been able to send so much produce to the Old Country.
– There are many men drawing big revenues from this country who have never seen Australia.
– That is so, and they are to-day being taxed as absentees. They have put a lot of money into investments in Australia.
– Yes, but they take it out again.
– I would ask the honorable member for Henty where he thinks the £18,000,000 of loan money is coming from? We shall get it from men on the other side of the world. Men are prepared to lend money to the Government because it will not be taxed, butthey will not lend it to private individuals when theyknow itwill be subject to taxation. It is not very easy to induce peopleto invest capital inAustralia to-day. Where hundreds of pounds are being invested here, thousands of pounds are being invested in other countries. So long as we continue to pass this kind of legislation in Australia, we shall find ourselves lagging behind the other countries of the world. What we require is population, capital, and confidence in the country. When capital is flowing into the country and is being expended upon reproductive works, we have a contented and industrious people. This kind of legislation will, in my opinion, bring about more discontent than some honorable members anticipate at the present time. The Government hope that it will help them, but they will find that, on the contrary, it will injure them. I understood that we were to have nothing submitted this session that we could fight about. I expected that it would be unnecessary for me to say anything, and that we would go through the work of the session on friendly terms. I think the Government would be well advised not to proceed further with this legislation until Parliament meets after the special adjournment. Probably things will be better then, there may be hope of a better season in the dry country, and the war will probably be at an end. I pray that it will be at an end. This special war tax will not then be required. I am proud that to-day Australia probably stands higher in the estimation of the people of the world than she ever did before. This country is looked upon as the freest and best country on the face of the earth. What we want to do is to keep Australia the freest and best country on the face of the earth. That can only be done by careful management of its affairs, and it cannot be done by the imposition of iniquitous taxation. We want to introduce population and capital into Australia to develop it. Australia has an extraordinary opportunity to-day, which we should hasten to take advantage of. We have great quantities of raw material stacked in our woolsheds, and we should open our arms to the people of Belgium and other lands to come here and start factories, in order that we may use our raw materials in this country instead of sending them away to other countries to be manufactured. We have, a chance now to make great progress, and I hope that the Prime Minister, the Government, and every member of this House will’ do their level best to embrace the present opportunity the like of which may never be ours again.
– I recognise that a protest from this side against any kind of legislation introduced at the present time must be largely futile. Opposed as we may be to the measures submitted by those who are in occupation of the Treasury bench, we know that they have the numbers in both Houses, that they can carry any legislation they please, and we can do nothing to stop them. They have a body that meets upstairs, and decides in the main what legislation shall be passed through both Houses of this Parliament. The most that we in Opposition can expect to do is to briefly state our views and record our protests. We shall not attempt anything in the direction of obstructing business, as- we recognise that the Government have the big battalions behind them, and are entitled to say that they have the mandate of the country also. The people will suffer, but they voted for the Party which we told them would, if returned, make them suffer. I am in full agreement with the principle of land value taxation. I hold that land is the- proper and natural source from which the governmental expenses of the country should be ‘-derived* At the same time, I hold that that taxa tion should not be superimposed upon other systems of taxation, but that it should be substituted for. indirect taxation. Unfortunately, the Government, and’ the party they represent, pile on taxation, not only on land values, but on every other conceivable thing that- they can tax. There will shortly be nothing further left for them to tax. I do not wish to interrupt the general debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but if no one else desires to speak I propose to move -
That the following words be added :- “ Provided that concurrently wilh the imposition of the additional tax on land values under this Act there shall be a corresponding reduction of taxation to a. like amount - on the tools and implements, of husbandry, and all necessaries of life, and particularly - on the food and clothing of the people.”
I regard land values taxation as a just and proper means of raising revenue to provide for. the expense of governing the community,; but I hold that it should take the place of other taxes, and should not be supplementary to them. It is for that reason that I have always advocated the principle that indirect taxation, especially taxation through the Customs, on the food, clothing, and other necessaries of the people, should be abolished and revenue from taxation on land values substituted for such imposts. I hope that my amendment will be accepted.
– Does the honorable member propose to add these words to the motion ?
– May lays it down that words cannot be added by way of an amendment to a motion for the second reading of a Bill. The honorable member’s amendment might possibly be made in another form, but it is not in order as proposed by him.
– May I direct your attention, sir, to standing order 162?
– In the 11th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, pages 294-5, we have this statement : -
Nor can an amendment be made, by the addition of words to the question, for reading a Bill a second time.
– Before you finally give your ruling, sir, may I direct your attention to another paragraph in May bearing on the. question.
– On the point of order, I desire, sir, to direct your attention to the following statement appearing at pages 474 and 475 of the 11th edition of May -
But where the resolution relates to a matter which is incidental to the legislation intended by the Bill, such a resolution does not arrest its progress, provided the principle affirmed can be considered at a further stage.
I submit that my amendment is incidental to the legislation intended by the Bill, and does not arrest its progress -
Thus, on the 6th May 1872, on going into Committee, upon the Education (Scotland) Bill, a resolution was carried, affirming that instruction in the Holy Scriptures was an essential part of education, and it ought to be provided for in the Bill. To give effect to this resolution an amendment was moved in Committee; the amendment was negatived’; and thus the resolution of the House was practically reversed; a proceeding, however, in strict conformity with parliamentary usage.
I call attention also to page472 of the same edition, and to footnote No. 2 on that page. This amendment, I submit, is strictly relevant to the Bill, and is also in accordance with standing order 162, which provides that -
No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution relevant to the Bill.
– There are other forms in which the honorable member might have put his proposal, but in view of the practice laid down by May, as read by me a few moments ago, I rule that the amendment, as submitted, is out of order.
.- I do not propose to speak at any length, but there are one or two phases of this Bill to which I should like to direct attention. I have very little doubt that honorable members of the Labour party, in bringing forward this legislation at the present time, simply desire to carry out their professed policy of endeavouring little by little to take away the value in land altogether from those who hold it to-day. As to the justice or injustice of such a proposition, I do not intend to say more than a few words. The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, declared that a tax on the unimproved value of land was fair, and that, inasmuch as that value was created by the community it should be returned to the community. Whilst one admits that, to a certain extent, that which we term the unimproved value of land has been created by the community, it cannot be denied that, with a few exceptions, all those who hold that unimproved value to-day have paid for it in cash. It must be obvious that if this policy is to be carried out to the bitter end it will not be very long before the whole value will have gone. There is already heavy State taxation in one form or another on the unimproved value of land.
Mr.Fenton. - New South Wales has only the municipal tax on unimproved land values.
– If the honorable member were as well acquainted as I am with the history of land taxation in New South Wales, he would know that what is called the shire tax took the place of the old land tax that was imposed by the New South Wales Parliament.
Mr.Fenton. - But we have a municipal tax and a State tax in Victoria. Landowners here have three taxes to pay.
– As a matter of fact the shire tax in many parts of New South Wales is so heavy that it exceeds considerably the amount of the municipal tax in Victoria, plus the State land tax. I can assure the honorable member that in the case of land with which I am connected the result of shire taxation as taking the place of the old land tax has been an increase of 700 per cent. in the amount of the tax. That will give honorable members some idea of the rate which land taxation has reached in some districts in New South Wales. The honorable member for Indi, speaking on another motion with regard to this measure, endeavoured to show that the increased tax was a very insignificant addition. I will admit that in the lower grades of the tax the increase is not very heavy.
– That is all I said.
– But it is considerably heavier than the honorable member made out. I have not the figures with me, but those which I had from the Land Tax Commissioner showed that the increase was about four times as much as the honorable member stated last night.
– The figures I quoted last night were verified by the Land Tax Commissioner.
– The honorable member told us that on a taxable value of £2,000 the tax was increased from £8 17s.10d. to £9 9s. He also said that on £5,000 taxable value, the increase was 2s.10d.
– I did not say any such thing.
– I am not sure what the honorable member did say, but he stopped short of the higher gradations ofthe tax. If he had gone on he would have totally disproved the point he was trying to make.
– I went up to £30,000.
– But the honorable member was very careful to leave off there. I shall show that the higher gradations have everything to do with the lower. This proposal imposes a very heavy burden upon the land-holders, because, when we get into estates of £80,000 and £90,000 value, we find that the additional impost means taxing away the whole capital value of one-fifth of the property, that is on a 5 per cent. basis, without considering the old tax at all.
– If it means the bursting up of large estates, will not that be a benefit ?
– It must be evident to honorable members that, with the heavy taxation now existing, the additional tax, taking away a considerable portion of the value of the land, must necessarily reduce the value.
– I do not admit that that is the general tendency of this tax.
– Does the honorable member say that the imposition of the tax does not decrease the value of the land?
– Possibly of that particular land, but not the value of land generally.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that we can reduce the value of an estate of 100,000 acres on one side of a wire fence without affecting the value of smaller properties on the other side of the fence?
– No; hut in the subdivision of that 100,000 acres, and other big estates, the settlement involved creates a more prosperous community, and sets off the reduction in the value of the land.
– The honorable member means that ultimately the value of the land will rise?
– Yes, ultimately it tends to rise.
– I do not want to enter into an argument on that point. When honorable members opposite were campaigning in the country advocating the land tax one of their chief arguments for its imposition was that it would bring down the price of land. Now they tell us it is going to raise land in value. If they put this additional burden upon the land-owners it will hit the very men whom I believe honorable members opposite desire to help. I know of my own knowledge that the spreading of the news of the imposition of the fresh land tax has thrown on the labour market a considerably greater number of unemployed. If ever there was a time in our history when we should try to encourage those who have the means to employ labour, it is now. Yet honorable members opposite have chosen this time of stress and trial to strike a staggering blow at men who are, in many cases, struggling to carry on, not with what they are earning this year, but falling back upon their capital resources, and to rub their very noses in the dust. The result is that a man who was prepared to spend a little money in fencing or boring, will decide not to spend money on improvements.
– None of those improvements will be touched by the tax.
– Of course not, but the man will not make them, and he will not employ labour. A land-owner who now employs ten hands will decide that he cannot afford to employ, perhaps, more than six, and will promptly dispense with the services of the other four. The Treasurer anticipates raising by this means an additional £1,000,000 from the 15,000 men who pay the tax to-day, and this additional impost will lead to the dismissal of, perhaps, 30,000 men. It is simply an arithmetical proposition. In circumstances of the kind the first thing a man does is to retrench. More than one pastoralist has told me, since it was proposed to increase the land tax, that it meant serious retrenchment for them. That is the only possible way in which they can carry on under existing conditions.
– Might it not mean an additional effort to got a greater amount of produce from the land?
– With pastoral properties, such as most of these are, land taxation does not, as a general rule, lead to more production, but to less. While it may ultimately lead in some instances to the subdivision of property, it will be recognised that in a country like Australia there is only a limited amount of land which, under existing conditions, it is possible to deal with in that way. I ask any man with practical knowledge what is the good of cutting up land for wheat-growing 40 to 60 miles away from a railway? Everybody knows that it is utterly impossible to profitably grow wheat under such conditions. No doubt a vast number of estates in close proximity to railway lines have already been cut up, and are producing as much as they probably would otherwise.
– I know that many properties have been made more productive since the imposition of the graduated land tax.
– That may beso where the land is in close proximity to a railway, and where, in some instances, men have gone in for wheat-growing; but as there is very little likelihood of the price of meat falling in thefuture, I venture to say that we shall find a good deal of former wheat country being devoted to the raising of meat.
– But if men reverted to raising meat instead of wheat, would that not mean only for a season or two?
– I do not think it would, on the average. I should now like to say a few words in regard to the leasehold question. I endeavoured to follow the Attorney-General very closely when he was speaking on the second reading, but I am yet in a difficulty as to the method by whichhe proposes to determine what he calls the “ economic value “ of a lease. So far as I can see, the result of the method he suggests will be that there will be no tax collectable on any lease in Australia. If we deduct the value of the improvements, and then capitalize whatever may be the Crown rent, the taxable economic rental value of a lease will be practically nothing. What, in most cases, gives a lease its rental value, over and above the Crown rent, is the improvements on it - that is what gives it an economic rental value over and above the rental value paid to the Crown.
– Where the improvements are vested in the lessee, so that if he sells the lease he has the right to the value of the improvements, that value will not be deducted from the value of the lease.
– That seems to me to set up quite an invidious position as between the leaseholder and the freeholder. Surely if the rental value arises from the value of the improvements which are put on the land, whether those improvements belong to the lessee or revert to the Crown, they still form a portion of the value that the improvements give to the land. Just as the improvements on a freehold property add to the value of land, so improvements on a leasehold add to the rental value of that land. Whether the improvements ultimately revert to the Crown or not, I fail to understand how they can be considered in the unimproved value which should be taxable under an unimproved land tax. Surely they are part of the improvements, and not part of the unimproved land value.
– Of course they are not; I admit that freely.
– Take two leases side by side, on one of which the improvements revert to the Crown, while on the other they are vested in the lessee. In the latter case the improvementsare the lessee’s property, and, when the lease expires, the Crown has to compensate him for them. Supposing both the leases had an equal period to run, and the lessees were at the same time to put them up for sale, they would, I submit, obtain different prices. The man whose improvement reverted to the Crown would not get as much for his lease as would the man who had the improvements vested in himself.
– That is so.
– In both cases the capital of the leaseholders have been invested in the improvements, and in both cases it seems to me they are entitled to compensation or allowance in regard to the improvements when it is sought to arrive at the unimproved value of the land. I utterly fail to see how improvements, for which there would be a rental payable in the event of a lessee subletting, can for a single moment be thought of as belonging properly to the unimproved value of the land.
– -They cannot be the unimproved value.
– Is not the principle the taxation of unimproved values?
– The only time, it seems to me, that it is possible for the Government to impose the tax is in the event of the rent paid by the lessee to the Crown amounting to less than the land would be let for on its true unimproved value. For the sake of argument, let us take a property which is let to a lessee at, say, ls. an acre, while what the AttorneyGeneral calls the “economic value” is 2s. an acre. It seems to me that the difference is what is rightly taxable. But if a man spends on the property £10,000 in improvements, and brings land, which properly should be let at ls., up ‘to a rental value of 2s., I cannot see why, whether the improvements ultimately revert to the Crown or not, we should call that difference the unimproved value, and tax him upon it.
– Nor would we.
– I certainly understood the Attorney-General to say, both when he was speaking upon the motion for the second .reading of the Bill and when he interjected just now, that if a lessee put additional improvements on Iiia land, and in regard to which the Crown has, at the expiration of the lease, to compensate the lessee, whatever additional rent they represented would form a portion of the value which he proposes to tax under this Bill.
– What I said did not apply to such cases at all. Let me illustrate what I said. Suppose that the fair annual rental of a lease is ls. per acre, we say to the lessee, “ We intend to charge you 6d. per acre, and you must clear scrub each year equivalent to another 6d. per acre.” The two charges would make up the rent which was payable to the Crown by the lessee.
– That is right.
– Therefore, the value of the work which a lessee does must be counted as part of the rental which he pays, and must therefore be deducted from the taxable value of his holding.
– That point is not in dispute. Where improvements have to be made as part of the rent payable by a lessee, there must necessarily be a deduction. But I contend that it does not matter under what conditions improvements are effected which raise the rental value of a .lease, the value of those improvements must -necessarily form part of the exemption.
– I agree with that. Whatever can be fairly said to be distinguishable from the unimproved value is not taxable.
– That is what I wanted to get at. If that plan be followed, I venture to say that by the time the leaseholds of Australia are valued - and the operation will occupy a long time, and prove very costly - it will be found that the difference between the rental paid to the Crown and the true rental value will be such that we shall be on the debit side of the ledger.
– I hope not. That is the sole argument which can be used against the proposal.
– In a great many cases I venture to say that if the stock were taken off leases, and those leases were put up for sale- even though they might be fairly well improved - a bid would not be forthcoming. Certainly that remark applies to a period nf drought such as we are now experiencing. The only time that a bid which would amount to anything for taxation purposes, would be obtainable for an unoccupied lease, would be when that lease had a very long term to run, and when the market for stock happened to be very low. In such circumstances a man might pay a fair premium for a lease of that description. But under any other conditions I doubt whether we should get a bid at all. I would suggest to the Attorney-General that before proceeding any farther in the direction of taxing leaseholds he should go very thoroughly into the whole subject.
– Before we meet again an attempt will be made to ascertain the values of leaseholds, and we shall then be able to discuss the matter upon the basis on which it really stands.
– If the position is as I think it is, I venture to say that when all our machinery has been put in order, it will be found ‘that the ultimate result from a revenue stand-point will be very disappointing. I do not propose to occupy any further time. I am exceedingly sorry that at this particular period of our history, when land-holders are experiencing one of the most trying droughts on record, honorable members opposite should have thought fit to place this additional burden upon them.
– The honorable member has just proved that it is not a burden at all.
– I have been talking of leaseholds in regard to which the Assessment Bill has not yet been introduced. The Bill with which we are now dealing relates only to freeholds, or to such leases as come under section 29 of the principal Act.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– I regret that at a time when one would expect the Government to keep as far as possible from party politics, they have chosen to impose what I regard as a vindictive tax upon the landholders of the country. So far as urban lands are concerned, the city propertyholders will simply pass on the tax. Who pays the land tax on the magnificent block of buildings occupied by Anthony Hordern in Sydney? Certainly the firm does not pay it. It puts an additional halfpenny upon this article and an extra penny upon that, so that the consumer pays it all the time. It is not the city land-holders who will pay this tax. But the impost will hit the workers of Australia so far as it applies to our cities. When it comes to broad acres outside our metropolitan areas, I admit that the landholder will have to pay it. But here again I venture to say that it will fall very heavily on the workers, and will add materially to our growing army of unemployed.
.- Upon this question of valuation, and also upon the merit of taxing leaseholders, I desire to say a few words. The AttorneyGeneral has said that the method of estimating the- unimproved value of leases which will be adopted - and, personally, I think it is the correct method - will be to take as the capital unimproved value of any lease the difference between the actual rental, minus improvements, that is being paid, and the true rental, or, as it is colloquially called, the economical rental of the land. That is doubtless the true method of taxing lessees, assuming that the policy of taxing them is a sound one. But in taxing any estate one has to con sider a great many facts, especially when there are two jurisdictions to be put into actual operation. Let us take the position in Queensland. There the pastoral lessees under the Crown, near the Northern Territory, pay about 5s. l$d. per square mile as rent, but they pay a total rental of 12s. 9d. per square mile for a good area of that country, in the shape of, without rent, betterment taxes and rates which they are charged for the public service given by the construction of railways, and in outlining a policy for the Northern Territory I pointed that out. Assuming that the basis of the tax on leaseholds is to be the difference between the actual rental, which is about 5s. 1 1/2 d. and the economic rental, which might be 12s. or 14s., is it fair to levy a tax on that difference, considering that already Queensland is getting it in the shape of rates and betterment taxes ?
– Does the Crown in Queensland tax leaseholds?
– It does in one way. I pointed out, on page 8 of the outline of policy for the Northern Territory, the great difference in the rent paid in the Northern Territory and Queensland for practically the same class of country. I showed that, even taking the same estate extending from Queensland into the Northern Territory, the annual rental paid in the Northern Territory was ls. 6d. per square mile, while Queensland charged 5s. 1 1/2 d. per square mile; but I also pointed out that in Queensland the total obligations were 12s. 9d. per square mile, because the leaseholders have to pay local rates and betterment taxes which are based on the assumption that developmental railways give a corresponding advance to the value of the area under lease. In these circumstances, if the State estimates are correctly made, the Crown in Queensland is already taking or taxing the difference between the actual rental paid and the economical rental, and the Queensland lessees are the class of leaseholders who will be largely taxed by the Commonwealth taxation of leaseholds. We must not view this new form of taxation in a prejudiced, or abstract, way; we must look at the actual facts and see to what extent we should tax leaseholds under the varying conditions with which we have to deal.
The States should certainly tax the unimproved sale value of leaseholds, but there is another difficulty in the fact that in a great many cases the annual rental is fixed at a low figure in order to induce settlement. I am speaking now of a matter quite apart from the consideration that must be given to the existence of onerous covenants in a lease as provided for in section 28 of our Assessment Act. Land may be leased at an annual rental of 6d. per acre, though its true rental should be ls. an acre, but there may be onerous covenants such as building covenants, and, in assessing what the actual rent is, we must take into account, not only the cash payment of 6d., but the value of the onerous covenants. On the other hand, the Act does not allow for betterment taxes or local rates, which in no sense can be regarded as onerous covenants attaching to a lease. Before leaving the question of the Northern Territory, there is another matter upon which I would like to say something. The Government had, very properly, in view a large policy of systematic development, not only by connecting Queensland and the Northern Territory, but also by extending, without delay, the railway northwards from Oodnadatta through the Macdonnell ranges. As a matter of fact, a survey of the best route from Oodnadatta through Alice Springs is, I think, now being made on instructions issued by the last Government. This railway is to be built right through the centre of the continent, and, when Queensland is ready, connexions will be made from about Newcastle Waters on the central line with the southern part of that State, and thereby with New South Wales. However, as we cannot build these lines unless we get from the lessees in the Territory and others benefited something like a reasonable return for the public advantages given by their construction, in the outline of policy I provided that if we were driven to it there would be a possibility of taxing what might be regarded as the difference between what is the true and what ought to bo a reasonable rental. We get ls. and ls. 6d. a square mile for land which in Western Australia, no better in quality and in the same geographical area, fetches 6s. 3d. per square mile. I maintain that the States, or in the case of the Northern
Territory, the Commonwealth, must consider certain factors which are disregarded in the taxation of lessees by our existing law. The last Labour Government passed aD Ordinance under which the first 5,000 allotments of agricultural land were to be free of all rent for twenty-one years, or during the lives of the lessees, but on the principle laid down in the Bill to be brought in, as no deduction could be made for onerous covenants, the full economic rent of these leases would be assessed in defiance of the Ordinance giving the land free of rent. But why was the land to be given free of rent? In order to induce settlement, and not because of certain covenants having to be fulfilled on the leases. I had to deal with this matter in a draft Crown Lands Bill, which, had we been in power, I would have introduced into the House, and I took some of these conditions into account in respect to a possible policy of taxing the leases in the Northern Territory. The reason for fixing low rentals in the case of pioneers who go out to our dry pastoral areas, and for allowing them to take up their holdings free from the burden of covenants, is that they take tremendous risks in the task of developing the outskirts of our practically unsettled areas.
– The £5,000 exemption would exclude all those leaseholders you mention.
– It may, or may not. I am not laying much stress on the burden that will be imposed on the lessees of the first 5,000 allotments under the Ordinance of 1912 in the Northern Territory, though, perhaps, in a few years’ time the economic rental may be much higher, and the covenants may be harder. I think Mill says that a principle is best tested by an extreme case of its application. The rent of pastoral leases is fixed at a comparatively low figure in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia, in order to induce men to go out and develop difficult areas. Experience has not enabled us as yet to arrive at any fixity of periodicity for droughts, and the possibilities are that in the first year of his enterprise, a man may be hit by a drought, and thus the rent is fixed at a very low figure for considerations that our assessment law, as it now stands, cannot take into account. I think that the lessee is regarded in most cases as the owner of the fee simple, but he has the right of recourse against those who were liable , prior to him, either as leaseholders’ or as the owners of the reversion, so that,’ though he may have to pay down the whole of the tax at once, he has recourse against these others to the extent of their proportionate liability. That might work hardship in some caseswhere the others were not’ liable. For instance, in section 27’ of the Land Tax Assessment Act. reference is made to section 13, under which certain lands, such as those held by charities, are exempt from taxation. If those lands were leased, and the lessee had to pay the whole of the taxation, unless we make provision in our Act, he would have no recourse against the reversioner, that is the holder of the fee simple, because under section 13 he is not liable for anything. As the result, of the criticism by honorable members on this side - and I think we did cure a goodmany of the imperfections that appeared in the Bill - provision was made in section 27 to cover such a case as that. But the position as it is now is that, if the lessee under the Crown has to pay under the circumstances I have mentioned, the Crown is not liable. We cannot tax the Crown in the States, and it is the Crown in the States who is the reversioner of this land. Therefore, unless we make other provision, or it is covered by section 13, the lessees whom we now drag into the net of- taxation will have to pay the whole of the tax without recourse to the reversioner, who is the Crown. I mention these instances to’ indicate that these provisions tend’ to encompass difficulties, the bearing of some, at least, of which does not seem to have been entertained by those who were responsible for framing the measure. Take now the case of mining: Suppose the- tax- reached, such Crown lessees as’ the’ companies- holding -the mines at Broken Hill. Nothing appeals more to people than to say, “Why should not these big shareholders living in Germany and England be taxed?” No doubt it is difficult to keep our minds clear of these biassing conceptions in connexion with mining; because it will1 be often said that the men drawing the dividends from the mines to-day were not the original prospectors or discoverers, and the moment that is said the last word of human wis- dom is accepted as having been uttered. But let us look at the actual’ position. It is said, whether fallaciously or not I am not prepared to say, that every ounce of gold won from the earth costs more than its value. Perhaps that is a paradox only fit for one who i3 not an Irishman. However, I always regard that remark as meaning that there are so few prizes in prospecting over the big areas of Australia, that unless we hold out the inducement of a very big reward to enterprise and patience - [because labour not having capital has to be patient arid selfdenying, whilst capital requires only the money - we will never, without large State expenditure, have our. mines, unknown at present, but actually in existence, discovered and subsequently developed.. Therefore, unless we hold out prospects of rewards such as come from, the big mines of Broken Hill, we shall never have the mining industry developed. Then, why should we bring in a tax which is based on the assumption that the holders of those mines possess- something to which they are not entitled? If we bring in a severe tax, in the form of either a royalty or a tax on the unimproved sale value of the mine, we may be ignoring such, considerations as those to which I have drawn attention. As I have said, I am not opposed to taxation on the unimproved value of land, whether it be held on lease or in freehold, but I see in connexion with. Crown leases that there are difficulties; which I hope the Minister will not overlook, and amongst the greatest are those of. which I gave an example in ‘what I said- about Queensland.-.
.- Members of the Opposition seem to have over-reached themselves in the captiousness of their criticism of these taxation measures. Everything is wrong in connexion with the Government proposals for raising money. We are told that we ought not to have introduced the Tariff in order to raise money; that is an outrage. We are told that the death duties are something, unheard of, and will deprive the widows and orphans of their just dues, although we know that the duties will be so adjusted as to avoid anything like an unfair imposition. Then it is said that we ought not to issue paper money, which also is courting disaster and fooling with a delicate question; that it is a matter we do not understand, and our action is liable to result disastrously to the country. It was said by one honorable member that the amended land tax is a vindictive imposition, which is being used for the purpose of squaring political accounts. Then we are told that we should not take the tax off bread by removing the wheat duty. That, too, is wrong, although it is designed to help those very interests which the Opposition profess to be so concerned about. The Government have gone so far as to tax the luxuries of the working man by putting an increased duty on beer and tobacco. That, I consider, is as far as we can justly go ; it is not fair to tax the poor man’s daily bread. But nothing we can do will meet with the approval of the Opposition. As to the question we are now discussing, I am essentially a land taxer, and I believe that ethically there is no tax as just in its incidence as this. Everybody to-day is acquainted with the basic principles of it. I recognise, and the Government have wisely recognised, that, although people are not entitled to wealth they did not create, yet the State is not justified in taking it in full, because of the many vested interests that have grown up with it. Therefore, only a very moderate proportion of that wealth will be taken fromthe holders. The honorable member for Wilmot referred to this Bill as being likely to frighten people off the land, and to prevent settlement, when land is heavily loaded by taxation in this way, but the honorable member for Corangamite told us that he had been so fortunate, in regard to the operation of the tax in the past, as to be in a position to sell his land. In view of that statement, it does not look as if the contention of the honorable member for Wilmot has much in it. We know, of course, that increasing the burden on the big estates means the creation of small estates, and only so far as the burden on the big estates is maintained, have the little estates a chance to multiply. The Leader of the Opposition argued that production is the only factor in determining these values. The honorable member ignored the presence of the people.
– I was speaking then of gold leases only.
– Even in regard to them the honorable member’s remark can hardly be accepted as axiomatic.
– But for its production, Broken Hill would be merely a barren desert.
– Yes, in that way. On the other hand, it does not matter how fertile an area may be, if it is remote from a centre of population its productiveness can be very small. The same may be said, in a lesser degree of course, of our minerals. In the Northern Territory, there are some minerals which might be developed if we ran a railway there, but they are not being developed because they are inaccessible. The propinquity of people is a very important factor, and it is just as essential as the fertility of the land itself. The passing on of this land tax was the last point which the honorable member for Richmond made. He said that taxes are invariably passed on; that the Anthony Horderns and others in this country would make the working man pay - the working man whom we have not considered to such an extent as to decline to tax his luxuries, anyhow. So far as the land tax is concerned, the passing-on process is one which is least possible of accomplishment. For the time being, perhaps, the owners of certain site-values, which by usage the people frequent most, will be able to pass on the tax;but the ultimate result of a land tax, as we all know who have observed its incidence, is that it gradually brings into use land which formerly was not in use - land which some exclusive holder would not permit people to use, or which wasjust a little remote, The tax led to the properties being cut up and sold, and other centres of population have grown up. We know that by this means’ the extra pressure of the landlord has been eased in that people have had as fresh outlets new areas where they could settle and establish businesses. So that ultimately the tax is not : passed on. The process can only be temporary. It is a peculiar form of taxation in that regard. From any point of view this measure, above all others, should be acceptable to the people. What is the use of honorable members opposite talking about the country being stricken with a drought, and a war being upon us, as a reason for not imposing such a taxas this one ? Havewe not all to make some sacrifice? Has not eventhe working man to make a sacrifice? Do we not reach him through the operation of the Tariff ?
– The Prime Minister has told us that this is not a war tax but a permanent tax.
– I do not care what has been said in that respect. Every tax to-day is a war tax, more or less. Bless my soul, the Opposition say that we must not do this, and that we must not do that, and then they tell us that we may borrow. Borrowing, it seems, is the only thing which we may do, but our opponents know very well that we cannot borrow. The only chance we had of getting any money was in the form of a war loan distinctly stated, and that has enabled us to assist the State Governments. Any other form of borrowing is not possible. When we seek to use our own credit they deny us the right to do that, calling it folly and describing it as the financing of fiddlers, and so forth. It is time, I think, that the Opposition allowed to the Government a little latitude.
– Propose an income tax, and we will help, you to pass it.
– The honorable member may speak for himself. But I venture to say that if we were to propose to levy an income tax we would hear his leader and every second man in the Opposition opposing the proposal. Is it seriously suggested that we should put on an income tax at this time ?
– We are seeking an equitable distribution of the added burden which we have to bear. We have to bear it as much because there is a drought as because there is a war, and in adjusting the incidence of taxation we are seeking to establish an equitable basis. The Tariff will reach the rank and file. If a contribution has to be made to the revenue it must come from where wealth is concentrated, whether it is a time of drought or of war.
– How much are you going to collect from the Shipping Combine under this tax ?
– The tax is not aimed at the Shipping Combine. I have no doubt that if the Government were to bring in a measure to deal with that injustice, the honorable member, amongst others, would denounce it as an outrageous interference with private enterprise. I know very well what these baits mean. This proposal, however, has nothing to do with the Shipping Combine, which will be dealt with in due course. If it is to be dealt with by this Parliament it will be done by the Government now in power, and I shall have some remarks to make about these matters when the Tariff is being considered. We are doing only a fair thing by the people of Australia in asking them to contribute according to their capacity at this juncture in our history. We must get money from ourselves in some way - by using our own credit, by issuing notes, as we cannot borrow, and by taxation, indirect and direct. As regards indirect taxation, we are adopting the easiest form to the people, and as regards direct taxation, we are adopting the easiest equitable form which can be conceived of, and, in doing so, we are not attempting to tax the whole of the wealth of people. We are taxing wealth after the poorer people have been passed over, and then in due proportion, as the aggregation of estates is disclosed. In respect to the leasehold question, I agree to a great extent with what has been said, namely, that the results from the imposition of the tax are not likely to be very great. It will probably be discovered that the tax is not worth collecting. I do not know whether it is or not. But I do know that many a leasehold proposition is better than many a freehold proposition. At the same time, I admit that there is many a leasehold which is not worth picking up. I also admit that to-day there is not much in many of the leaseholds. In assessing land values a wise assessor takes due cognisance of the fact that the seasons are not always good, and, according to the location of the land, the rainfall, and so forth, the value is fixed. So it is in regard to big leaseholds, many of which it will be found are now paying all they are worth.
– I was glad indeed to hear the honorable member for Macquarie make the statements he did. I want to ask him a question again if he would not think it an impertinence on my part. As he had so very little to say in favour of a tax on leasehold land, I would like to ask him, just between ourselves, whether he voted for this proposal in Caucus.
– I am not opposed to it.
– I undertake to say that there was some trouble in getting the proposal through Caucus.
– That has nothing to do with the matter.
– The majority in the Labour party, plus those on this side who are opposed to the proposal, could defeat it.
– Why does the Leader of the Opposition try to get from members what he is not entitled to know ?
– Am I not entitled to know the true opinions of honorable members regarding these fundamental questions of land taxation? That is a fine theory to be propounded by one of those who pose as the friends of the people!
– The right honorable member misrepresents me. I say that he is not entitled to know what takes place in the Labour Caucus.
– Why should any member opposite object to say, unfettered by the Caucus, what his individual opinion is? I should like to know how the Government Whip voted on this matter in Caucus.
– The right honorable member will know when the division is taken.
– That is precisely what 1 shall not know. All the supporters of the Government will vote in favour of the tax, but I should like to know how many of them voted against it in Caucus.
– The right honorable member should join the party. Then he would know all about these matters.
– When next the Caucus has a question of this kind before it I may accept the invitation.
– Was the right honorable member’s Caucus unanimous regarding the double dissolution proposal ?
– There was never any trouble in this party regarding that matter.
– I ask honorable members to cease from interjecting, and I ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition asks for interjections.
– Interjections are disorderly, whether asked for or not.
– I tell honorable members frankly that there never was the slightest trouble in our Caucus about the double dissolution. They dare not make the same frank confession regarding these taxation proposals.
– How many members of the right- honorable member’s party told him that he was committing political suicide ?
– Not one.
– I shall not permit these interjections regarding what has happened in the Labour Caucus or among Liberals concerning the double dissolution proposals. I ask the right honorable member to confine himself to the question. If he does not do so, I shall direct him to discontinue his speech.
– You may ask me at once, if you please. We have not very muchliberty here nowadays.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– It is time that these threats from the Chair ceased.
– The Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition occupies a very responsible position, and I look to him to support the authority of the Chair. I have called on him to debate the question before the House - the second reading of the Land Tax Bill. The discussion was developing into a wrangle between members on both sides regarding the operations of their respective Caucuses. I asked the right honorable member to confine himself to the question, and I asked other honorable members to cease from interjecting. I repeat those requests, and I ask the right honorable member to assist the Chair.
– I shall try to do so. I hope that you will make the same threat to honorable members opposite if they disobey you as you have made to me. I ask, through you, whether this taxation has the substantial - I shall not say unanimous - support of the members of the Labour party.
– It must have the support of the majority, or the measure would not be before us. But I should be interested to hear the tremendously large minority express its views on the floor of the House, and make known its real sentiments regarding the proposal. I suppose that we shall never know the views of the minority opposite. We know, however, that the last speaker told us that they have taxed the working man wherever they can.
– No; only where we thought it advisable.
– You have taxed him in this way, that way, and the other way.
– I said that we had not spared his luxuries.
– Is tobacco a luxury ?
– Yes; and beer, too.
-I should like to hear the opinion of the working man on the subject. I am glad to have the admission of my honorable friend that the great function of his party in this time of stress and dearth of employment is to tax the working man wherever they can. Many thanks for that admission. The statement on this side is that the taxation which you are imposing will bring more disabilities upon the working man. We are not here to plead for the wealthy, as we have been charged with doing. We say that the effect of the tax will be to impose further disabilities on the working man in this time of stress.
– The honorable member for Corangamite did not say that.
– He said that the tax was a class tax.
– Does thehonorable member for Indi say that it isnot ? Will any member opposite say that it is not? The Attorney-General has stated that it is a class tax. He has said, “ We have a right to go to this class and tax it.” Was it wrong for the honorable member for Corangamite to say what the Attorney-General has said ?
– No; but the right honorable member did not always say that.
– I have not said anything different. I say that you cannot tax a class without indirectly and ultimately taxing people outside it.
– The right honorable member did not always say that.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Macquarie will admit that what I am saying is good economics. This is class taxation.
– All taxation is the same.
– No. Certain forms of taxation affect every citizen in proportion to his ability to pay. The Bill excludes whole classes who, perhaps, are better able to bear taxation than those on whom it is imposed.
– The right honorable member says that the tax will be passed on to the working man.
– I am not talking about the working man now. I say that you are exempting whole classes who are better able to pay this tax than are those upon whom it is being imposed.
– Who are they?
– The trusts that the honorable member is sucha champion of.
– Then there are trusts?
– All I have to say about them is that honorable members opposite have been mighty silent about the trusts since they have gone over to the other side in this chamber. Why is it ? Why is not the honorable member for Oxley cutting slices of beef every day now as he used to do?
– There is plenty of time. It is coming good.
– In the meantime, let the fact be recorded that when the members of the Labour party sat on this side last session, up to the very day the session ended they made the welkin ring about trusts, and nowfor three solid months wehave never heard them mention the word.
-We are keeping our powder dry.
– Was it wet when my honorable friends were over here? We knowthatit was fizzing the whole of the time.
– We intend tosubmit the referenda questions again.
– I suppose that my honorablefriends willbe happy when they do that.
I do not think they will get from this taxation anything like the revenue they think they will derive from it.
– Hear, hear !
– That is my firm opinion, and I am glad to have the confirmation of the Government Whip, because he knows something about this matter. The honorable member who last resumed his seat referred to one aspect of land taxation, but he got away from the point as soon as he stated it, without attempting to controvert what was said on this side. Referring to the question of the passing on of the land tax in cities, I say that it is inevitable that a class tax like this must be passed on in the cities. It cannot be otherwise. What is happening in Sydney to-day ?
– The city is spreading out because of the land tax.
– Does that prevent the tax upon city properties being passed on?
– Yes, it does, and the honorable gentleman knows it quite well.
– I know quite well that a class tax such as this is; which is not generally levied, must be passed on, can be passed on, and is passed on. Here is a proof of what I say. In the city of Sydney there is the Mutual Life Company of New York, at Martin-place. This company is paying to-day in taxation of one kind and another £2,100 per annum.
– And rents have not gone up in their building.
– I am not saying whether rents have gone up or not.
– How else would the taxation be passed on?
– I want to know who is paying this taxation. Surely the people who pay the taxation are the people who get it passed on. Hundreds of people will have to pay this tax, and not a single big rich land-holder. It will affect a corporation of many small men, many of whom are working men, and who are insuring their very existence. These are the people whohave to pay this taxation.
– They would have to pay it in rent, if they did not pay it in taxes.
– Here are the facts staring honorable members in the face.
– If they did not plunder them in taxes they would in rent.
– I see. Then it is the tenant who has topay this taxation?
– I admit that it is the tenant who does pay it in most instances.
– That is my point. I say that the tenant pays the tax in rent, and in his turn he, of course, tries to pass the tax on. If honorable members will not listen to this kind of reasoning, I have another fact to bring under their notice. What has their taxation brought them to in Sydney? It has brought them to the rag town of their own Labour Government. That is the way this taxation is expressing itself just now. It is makings the people live in rag tents.
– There is many a good man in Australia who has lived in a rag tent.
– Yes, but is that my honorable friend’s ideal?
– It was until I could get something better.
– Exactly. My honorable friend is giving the people something when he knows they should have something very much better.
– It is due to the war, the drought, and unemployment.
– They say quite the contrary over in Sydney.
– The honorable member for Darwin wanted to live in a tent in the parliamentary gardens.
– I am glad to hear my honorable friends on the opposite side saying, as they are doing now, that it is not so bad a thing for men to have to live in tents.
– Neither is it. I shall be in one before another fortnight is over.
– But is that the ideal of the great Labour party of Australia ?
– To make the people live in calico tents?
– Yes; I want to see them all in tents. That is better than paying rent. If the honorable member would go to Western Queensland he would see more people living in tents than in houses.
– Well, we are living and learning. According to my honorable friends opposite, from good brick houses to. calico tents is progress.
– It is progress. The people are spending their money on their holdings instead of building beautiful dwellings.
– We are surely getting on when we hear our honorable friends boasting, as the result of four years of Labour government, that the people are living in calico tents.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman’s friends turn them out at the last State elections?
– Because they could not. That is plain enough for the honorable member. My honorable friends have an ineradicable idea in their minds that if they can win at an election, that is the best proof that everything they are doing is right. They have only that one test. Those who get the biggest number of votes must of necessity be on the right side.
-Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to confine himself to the Bill.
– Vox populi vox dei.
– There is any amount of the “ vox “ about my honorable friends, but there is not much ,, /-/, about them.
Here are some more instances of the effects of this taxation in Sydney. They are taken from the taxation returns. Farmer and Son, of Pitt-street, Sydney, pay altogether in taxes £6,800 a year.
– From what paper is the honorable member quoting?
– It is a return published by Mr. Tom Henley, M.L.A., of Sydney. All his figures are taken from returns furnished by the people concerned. If a man obtains a return of taxation from the City Council, will the honorable member dispute it? If he learns from the Taxation Office the amount of taxation paid, will the honorable member question his figures? What is the meaning of this?
– We desire to know where this document can be obtained.
– I shall obtain a copy for each honorable member opposite. This statement was published in the morning newspapers of Sydney. This is the way in which the figures relating to eighteen city properties work out -
To make the position, which is a serious one, more understandable, I have tabulated the lowest, fixed taxable outgoings on eighteen city properties in Martin-place and Moore-street, and others near the General Post Office. The calculation includes the now super tax proposed for this year by the Holman Government. It will be noticed that the property I referred to as paying £1,600 a year land tax pays in rates and taxes £4,058 per annum for the 78-ft. frontage, or £52 0s. 8d. per foot frontage per annum. Out of every £1 rent paid, 10s. 3d. goes in rates and taxes; the real landlord gets 9s. 9d., and out of that must come bad debts, agents’ commissions, &c, and if he buys materials for repairs he pays again s 25 per cent. Customs duty on locks, paints, &c. It is clear, therefore, what is required to reduce the present admittedly high rent charges is a political surgeon or statesman who, recognising the real cause of the evil, will cut off from the produce of property the extraneous growths of taxation which have wrongly fastened themselves on to rents.
And so on. He furnishes the whole table of rates. That taxation is made up as follows: - “Water rates, 6d.”-
– Would the honorable member speak of a water rate as a tax ?
– No, not in the sense that it is penal. I am talking of what goes out of the rent - of what the working man has to pay. The list is as follows -
Thus the landlord gets 10s. 4d. of each £1 of the assessed annual value and the tax gatherer 9s. 8d.
– Yet offices are being erected all over Sydney.
– I do not dispute that. My point is that a lot of this taxation is borne by the working man.
– Office rents in Sydney have not gone up Id. They are below normal to-day.
– This is the first time that I have heard that rents in Sydney are below normal.
– I spoke of office rents.
– But, in discussing rentals, we cannot speak of office rents alone. We must take the parity of them.
– The right honorable member was referring to taxation paid on office buildings.
– I was referring to taxation that has to be paid by the working men of Sydney. They pay it, not directly on city properties, but directly on their own properties.
– If it comes to that, the working man pays everything.
– I say that the bulk of this taxation will filter through to the working man. Under the plea of trying to tax some one else, the Government, as the honorable member for Macquarie told us so eloquently just now, are really taxing the working man all round.
– The right honorable member said just now that this was a class tax - that it was not a tax on the working man.
– I said that it was a class tax as proposed; and I repeat that the working man ultimately has to pay a goodly section of it.
– Does not the right honorable member think it time that we legislated to stop this passing on of everything to the working man ?
– The Labour party have been in office for nearly four years. “What have they done for the working man?
– We are going to carry our referenda proposals.
– The State Labour party of New South Wales has also been in office for nearly four years, but the cost of living is still going up, and honorable members opposite can do nothing to stop it. They have now, of course, the referenda in view.
– The right honorable member told the people that we were taxing every family to the extent of so many pounds per annum, but when he was in office he did not remove any taxation.
– The honorable gentleman knows that we could do nothing. But when we found that we could not carry our proposals we did not cling to office like some of his friends have done; we went out.
– The right honorable member is now taxing our energy.
– Judging by appearances, the honorable member’s energy will stand much pressure. I shall not attempt to compete with him in the matter of exhaustion, because he has a great handicap in his favour.
Honorable members opposite admit that the pastoralists and other big landowners of this country are passing through a very rough time just now.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that 17,000 persons in Australia enjoy between them an income of £70,000,000 a year?
– I can only say that some of the large land-owners are obtaining no revenue from their holdings to-day. It is idle to quibble. I am dealing now only with the opportuneness of the time chosen for this further impost. There is this to be said in regard to this tax : that when you get up to 9d. in the £1 you have only another 3d. to take to have the whole unimproved value of the land.
– On a limited quantity only.
– What does the honorable member mean ? I am taking the ordinary assessable taxation, which is a 5 per cent, basis always. On that basis the Government have now annexed 75 per cent, of the value of the land. Is that right ?
– No, it does not apply all round.
– I did not say it did. I said it averaged round, taking the basis at 5 per cent., which is the basis on which all municipal operations are conducted. Although we are suffering from drought, the Government say that clause 66 of the Bill will give the Minister plenty of opportunities for affording relief to anybody who is stricken. The worth of that statement may be gauged by a simple reference to the estimate of receipts. The Treasurer says that instead of giving the taxpayers relief, he is going to get another £1,100,000 out of them.
– You say you do not believe you will get the money from the.tax?
– Surely the honorable member does not think that the o Treasurer’s estimate is wrong ?
– I do; I do not think he will get that amount.
– Then had not the honorable member better help us to revise the whole thing? If the Government are not going to get the amount named, their estimate is all wrong. The Prime Minister says he will, and the AttorneyGeneral says they will. I should like to ask another question, but, of course, there is no Minister in the chamber who can give me any information on this taxation proposal. They taxed the people but they will not even stay in the House to give information upon their own proposals. Had the Government any expert testimony as to the opportuneness of imposing this tax and its probable yield ?
– There is Mr. McKay.
– I should like to know if Mr. McKay recommended this form of taxation just now.
– It is not his business to do it.
– Perhaps not; but the Minister might tell us. Does the honorable member mean to say that Mr. McKay has not reported on this matter to the Treasurer ? No Minister with a grain of sense would introduce taxation of this kind without consulting his experts. I guarantee that the Minister of Customs did not introduce the Tariff without consulting the experts in his Department about it.
– He is an expert himself on the Tariff.
– So I should judge from the look of the Tariff and the criticisms I have already heard from his own side of the House. I should very much like to know if Mr. McKay has recommended this form of tax.
– Is not that a matter of policy, and altogether ap art from the recommendation of officials ?
– Of course it is.
– Mr. McKay is not responsible for the proposal.
– I know he is not. If we knew that expert opinion was behind this tax, and that this was regarded by the experts as an opportune time to have another cut at the land-owners, it might help its passage through this House.
– That is a matter for the Government.
– I know it is.
– Then what is the game?
– The Treasurer tells us across thetable the estimated yield of the tax, and the anticipated movements of trade, on the authority of men in his Department. He is responsible, and he is the first to inform the House and the country what his experts tell him regarding these matters.
– The Treasurer has given you the estimated yield, and he gets that information from the proper source.
– But I should be very much interested to know what Mr. McKay’s opinion is as to the imposition of the tax itself at this particu lar time. Clause 66 says that the taxpayer may get relief, but the extent to which the Government propose to relieve him is to increase the total amount to be collected by £1,100,000. There does not seem to be very much prospect of relief there.
There is another point. The Government cannot get a penny from leaseholds in any case without first of all impugning and condemning the management of the public estate by the public officials of the State, because the tax on leaseholds is based on an assumed difference between the economic value and the amount of the economic value collected by the State in the shape of rent. The Government cannot get a penny without first proclaiming to the world that the State officials are not doing their duty in expressing the economic value in the State rents.
– Do you not think the State would very quickly attend to the matter afterwards ?
– That is the point I was going to put. The State can prevent the Commonwealth getting a penny of that taxation by simply accepting the Commonwealth valuation and taking it out in rent?
– How could a State do that with leases running over thirty or forty years?
– It cannot be done with very big leases, and the honorable member reminds me of another point. All these big leaseholds that run over a term of years - and the bigger the term the more reason there is for assessing the value over a big term - are simply rewards to induce men to go on that particular kind of land. What are the forty -two-year leases in the western division of New South Wales but a reward to induce people to take up land which had become valueless to the State ?
– A lot of them were in the land scandals.
– Does the honorable member say that the Commissioners for the Western District are doing something unfair ?
– I do not. I spoke of the forty- two-year leases.
– So did I, and they have been granted to the present holders by three independent Commissioners. Mr. Hugh Langwell is one of them. He is an old Labour man, and a very good man, too. The Commissioners have fixed these forty-two years’ leases. Why? Because the land had become absolutely valueless, and to bring it back to a valuable condition these long leases were offered as rewards to tempt men to go upon it.
– The rents of the lessees are reduced as their improvements are increased.
– They are reduced to a fair economic rental.
– The western leases contain a condition that, if the lessees effect certain improvements to the satisfaction of the Board, the Board will reduce their rents.
– That is supposed to be a fair condition in that district. My point is that whatever is being done is, in the judgment of these three men, the best thing that can be done for the State. That being so, and the Commissioners having said to the people of New South Wales, “That is as much as you ought to get from these lessees,” has Mr. McKay or the Prime Minister a right to endeavour to get more from them? Take the case of other ordinary leases. Let us assume that a ten years’ lease has been granted. All these pastoral leases are averaged over a term so that the bad years may be taken into account with the good years. Many a man to-day enters into a lease which it would not pay him to accept if it extended over only four or five years, but he enters into it because he hopes to get something out of it during the last four or five years of its currency. If, under this Bill, at the end of, say, six years, when his property is beginning to return him something, we are going to tax the economic rental of that man’s lease, we shall be doing him a gross injustice. I do not see how it is possible to avoid constant trouble, seeing that these two landlords will be assessing these leases at different values, and gathering duplicate taxation from them. The proper thing to do is to leave this question of leasehold to the people who own the land, and who have sovereign rights over it in the different States. If a leaseholder is not paying his fair share, in principle he is just as much entitled to be taxed as is the landowner. But I am dealing with the question of equity in the ascertainment of those values. There is bound to be a conflict in every case between the State valuer and the Federal valuer.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in discussing the question of the taxation of leaseholds under this Bill, seeing that there is nothing in the measure dealing with leaseholds?
– Why did not the Minister explain it?
– I take it that if the honorable member is permitted to discuss leaseholds when there is no proposal in the Bill relating to leaseholds, we shall be able to traverse the whole ground again at a later stage.
-SPEAKER. - I followed the remarks of the right honorable member very closely, and if he had gone outside the scope of the Bill I should have called him to order.
– I know that it is idle to discuss this matter. The fiat has gone forth, and in criticising the measure I recognise that we are only butting our heads against a stone wall. But it is a fair thing to discuss the difficulties which will arise in connexion with this novel form of taxation under which it is proposed to set up two landlords to assess two values on the same estate, and to extract different amounts from it in the way of taxation. That, I submit, can only lead to absolute confusion, to friction between the Federal and State officials, and to trouble in every shape and form. What the lessee will do between these two stools I do not pretend to know. This legislation is based upon an absolute condemnation of what is being done in the management of the public estate by the State officials, because under the leasehold provisions of the Bill the Government will not be able to obtain one penny of taxation until they have proclaimed to the world that those officials have not assessed the rentals of leases upon their economic value. What those officials are not taking for the State, the Government declare that they intend to take for the Federation. If there could be any greater condemnation of State officials, I should like to know what it is.
– The tax may not be based on the economic value of the leases.
– But it is stated that it will be levied upon the economic value spread over the term of the leases. In many cases - as I have already pointed out - rewards are offered to men to tempt them to go and reclaim land for the State.
– If the State has entered into a contract with those men, and has said to them, “ If you will go and reclaim these waste lands for a certain number of years we will give you a certain reward,” surely we have no right to break into that contractual relationship between tenant and landlord - the landlord being the State Government, and operating through its State officials. Consequently this Bill is based upon the principle that before we can get a penny tax under it we have to condemn the present management of State lands by State officials and the control of it by the State Government. I do not desire to occupy the time of the House at any further length, but I felt it my duty to point out this very grave defect in regard to the proposed taxation of leaseholds.
– I must apologize to honorable members for trespassing upon their time at such a late hour on Saturday evening, hut this is a matter of such supreme importance to the great producing interests of the country that I feel I must make some observations upon the principle of the Bill which is now before us. The measure is a direct attack on the landholders and the primary producers of the Commonwealth. It is a distinctly class tax, with no scientific or sound economic basis. It clearly trespasses on the preserves of the State Governments, attempting, as it does, to interfere with the public administration, in those various States, of the lands of the Crown, particularly in regard to Crown leases. This tax is superimposed on existing State taxation. When the original Commonwealth Land Tax Bill was introduced in 1910, honorable members opposite justified the legislation on the ground that in some of the States the Parliaments had failed to impose proper taxation. That justification cannot hold good to-day, particularly in view of the heavy taxation imposed by this National Parliament in that original Act. This legislation strikes at the very root of the question of the cost of living; because anything that hampers primary production must operate in the direction of increasing that cost. As to the incidence of the taxation, it has been explained that, in so far as it relates to city properties, it may be passed on ; and I can give one illustration of this. The first progressive land taxation passed in any Australian Parliament was introduced in South Australia by the Government of which the late Mr. Kingston was the head. At that time Mr. Kingston was attorney in Australia for one of the richest absentees who held property there, and Mr. Kingston, as representing that gentleman, made a provision in all future leases that any taxation should be paid by the tenant, in addition to the rent.
– That is illegal under the Commonwealth Act.
– That was done in South Australia, and has continued ever since. I believe in land taxation that is reasonable and just; and I should like to draw attention to the example set by the democratic people of New Zealand, who were the first to impose heavy land taxation of a progressive character. Next to that of the Commonwealth, the taxation there is the heaviest, being, perhaps, double that of any other community in the southern world; but the same Parliament that imposed this heavy progressive taxation, also provided that the produce from land should be exempt from income tax. This exemption placed the land-holders there in just about as good a position as the landholders in some of the States where no land tax prevailed. I do not intend to dwell on the question of freehold taxation more than to repeat what has already been stated, that when the 9d. scale is reached, it means 75 per cent, of the capitalized value of the estate, and another 25 per cent, means the whole lot. This kind of unjustifiable taxation is not equalled! elsewhere in any part of the world, and by driving capital out of land investment, it does infinitely more harm, twenty times over, than it can possibly do good. This taxation is not only cruel and unjust in its incidence, but in many individual cases it means absolute ruin and disaster.
– How many peoplehas it ruined ?
– We have no right to ruin anybody - no right to be unjust to any person. When the original Land Tax Bill was introduced here, sworn declarations were received from the representatives of the owners of estates in the Riverina district, showing that every penny of profit would be swallowed up by the tax; and these declarations werefollowed by requests that the Prime Minister would send a Government official to examine the returns and balance-sheets, which it was hold would clearly and unanswerably support the statement. However, my intention to-night is to deal more particularly with the new phase of this legislation, which includes in its operation Crown leases of well nigh every kind. First, there are the pastoral leases ; and, judging by the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral, in moving the second reading, it is the intention of the Government to take every penny between what is now collected by the States in theway of rental, and what the Commonwealth taxing officer considers the present economic value of each property. This is a very uncertain quantity. It may be a generous limit. It may be available to-day, but in twelve months’ time may disappear altogether, along with a good deal more of the value. In these circumstances the incidence of this taxation will be quite unreliable as a permanent source of revenue for the Treasurer. On a pastoral property in South Australia, on which three years ago 105,000 sheep were put through the shearing-shed, this year less than 25,000 have been shorn, and they have had to be followed all over the run of 2,000 square miles, and the wool taken off them wherever they happened to be found. That is the present condition of one estate in South Australia, which some years ago would give a clear annual revenue of £25,000 to £30,000. In the interests of the development of the interior of the country, where climatic disadvantages have to be faced, and where the pastoralists have to contend with the ravages of wild dogs, foxes, and rabbits involving enormous expense in the erec tion of vermin-proof fencing, costing annually in many instances double the whole of the rent collected by the Crown, is it wise to look for the last penny of available taxation from settlers upon country of this character? The taxation proposed is trenching on the prerogative of the State Crown Lands Departments, because if there should be a margin between the rent now collected and levied over a given term, and the value that may exist in a normal or a prosperous season, it ought to be regarded as the property of the State, and not as the property of the National Parliament.
– And if the States secure this margin their action will defeat the object of the Federal tax.
– Of course it will. I am amazed that such a proposal, so far as pastoral leases are concerned, should have secured a passage through Caucus, seeing that among honorable members opposite there are not only honorable members representing pastoral areas, but also honorable members with a close and practical knowledge of the conditions attaching to the occupation of these big areas. State Governments and State Crown Lands Departments have had anxious times in dealing with the vexed pastoral problems, and the result of their experience, extending over the last thirty or forty years, has been that the rental of a lease, even without taking into account added taxation, is a secondary consideration, and that the primary consideration is to secure continuous occupation and the carrying out of improvements of a permanent character. Improvements such as subdivision and water conservation represent, possibly, more than half the value of the whole estate, and the carrying capacity of a lease is proportionate to the capital wisely invested in carrying out these permanent improvements. The exaction of heavy contributions to the public revenue from estates that have to experience so many disabilities, climatic and otherwise, that no legislation can abolish, is a most suicidal policy. In the late 80’s and the early 90’s there was a fallacy in South Australia that the squatter was robbing the people of the grass, and as there was a popular clamour to penalize him, when the 1888 leases fell in, provision was made by which the State was to exact a much heavier rental.
Under this well-meaning but ill-advised administration the 1888 leases when they fell in were submitted at public auction to the highest bidders. Just at that time the seasons were fairly good, and Sir Jenkin Coles, who was then Commissioner of Crown Lands, thought that he had scored the best bit of business that had been done in land administration in South Australia by getting very high rents at auction for these pastoral estates. Men who had been in the out-back districts from the very inception of the State warned him and the Administration that his policy was wrong, and their warning was well-timed, because in four or five years these estates, whose rents had been quadrupled, were deserted, and could have been taken up at any price. Vermin was spreading in every direction. Estates, the rental of which had risen from 2s. 6d. and 5s. per square mile to £3 or £4 per square mile, were left on the hands of the Government, and we know that when that happens in the case of pastoral estates improvements’ go to rack and ruin in a very little time. It would have been infinitely better for South Australia not to have got a penny of rent so long as the properties could have been kept in occupation. The result of the mistake was that after a Royal Commission had investigated every part of the way-back country, pastoral legislation of the most generous character ever submitted to any Parliament had to be introduced. Those men had to be given a forty-two years lease, and, in case of many of the estates, at practically a peppercorn rental with the right to re-adjust the rent at the end of the first twenty-one years. It would seem from the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, that a good many of these estates are held to-day at a rental altogether inadequate and out of all proportion to their real value, and it is the intention of the National Parliament to appropriate the. difference between the present rental and the real value to-day. If such an available margin does exist, it is the property of the States, and not of the National Parliament. Many of these estates are just now ending their first term of twenty-one years, and have nearly reached the time when an adjustment of the rental will have to be made for the second twenty-one years. I say again that the margin between the rental and the real value, if it exists, belongs to the State, and if we take it from the State it is depriving the State, not only of its rights, but of something that it needs more than does the National Parliament. But what is the true position to-day ? Unfortunately, in connexion with many of those pastoral properties, there is no such margin. The reason is that after the present holders entered upon the occupation of their 1893 leases, they had to make improvements of an extensive character. It is true that wool rose in price, but it is also true that the vermin question became more severe than it had ever previously been in the pastoral history of Australia. Wild dogs, rabbits, and foxes overran the country and there was a consequent necessity -to provide over those immense areas vermin-proof fences, which represented an impost on the pastoral lessee two, and in some instances three, times greater than the rental they had to pay. Therefore, the position of the pastoral lessees in South Australia is that, in consequence of the enormous liabilities they had to incur to get rid of the vermin, such burdens have been laid upon them that if the real value of their leases is greater to-day than it was then, the added value does not compensate for the payments of 6s., 8s., and 10s. per mile that the lessees had to make for protection against the vermin. Added to those considerations is the fact that in Australia, with the exception of Queensland, there is to-day so far as the pastoral properties are concerned, a bigger drought than has even been experienced before. In some instances, the flocks have almost’ been entirely wiped out, and generally they have been decimated to such an extent as to represent a very heavy loss.
– What is the economic rent of those lands?
– The honorable member knows what it is, because, in the old days when he was a member of the State Parliament, we had to travel those areas, and the honorable member, who was timid of horses, was more than once pitched on his head. The result was that the lot of those lessees appealed so much to the honorable member’s heart that he became in Parliament one of the warmest supporters of the pastoralist in the out-back country, and assisted right royally to give them conditions of a generosity such as never had obtained previously in Australia.
– He fell on his head and therefore was not hurt!
– That fact only evidenced that he has a very sound head. The honorable member was singing the praises of the pastoralists before ho came to this Parliament, but I am afraid that a degeneration has set in,, because no one in this Parliament knows better than he and the honorable member for Grey that the facts I Have put before the House in regard to the pastoral history of South Australia are absolutely correct.
– There is better country in Australia than that of which the honorable member is talking.
– There is good and bad country. I have referred to one station which, in a good year, would return £30,000 in income, but during the last two years it has lost 80,000 sheep.
– What is its economic value 1
– Who knows? The officers of the Taxation Department have a very intimate practical knowledge of the pastoral areas of Australia, and I should be very much surprised if those men would not say that this proposition is bad from an economic point of view, that it will disappoint the expectation of its authors, prove a burden on the great wool industry of Australia, which has made this continent famous, and do harm altogether out of proportion to the few pounds which the additional tax will raise.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the- House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 11 o’clock a.m., and that Government business have precedence on that day.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141212_reps_6_75/>.