6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., andread prayers.
– In view of the fact that the Government of Western Australia was the only State Government so make application in response to the Minister’s request for the remission of duty on imported fodder, will the honorable gentleman take -steps to allow of fodder being brought into Western Australia free of duty?
– I thought I had explained the matter fully yesterday. The Government of Western Australia asked that a certain quantity of maize should be allowed to enter the State free of duty, but the Commonwealth Government, having all the facts before it, considered that, aa maize was available in the eastern States, it would not be fair to remit the import duty.
-It was announced in yesterday’s newspapers that a company known as the Morris Beef Company was acquiring properties in the Commonwealth for the establishment of meat works. Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House whether any application has been made by that company, under the Commerce Act, and whether the company is in any way associated with the firm of the same name which is connected with the American Trust?
– No application has been received. The telegram spoke of a London company. Every one is aware that the Morris Company is a Chicago company, and ia said to be a member of the Beef Trust.
– In view of the abolition of import duty on wheat, will the Minister of Trade and Customs cause cablegrams to be sent to the Governments of Canada, the United States of America, and the Argentine, asking what the price of wheat is in those countries, and will he periodically obtain that information from them?
– I cannot say that the Government will do that, but the suggestion is a good one, and I shall consult my colleagues in regard to it. I am afraid that the information referred to would not be sufficient, because shipping and other charges might absorb any difference in the rise or fall of the price of wheat.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, before the adjournment for the Christmas vacation, lay on the table of the House a copy of the new telephone rates f
– When the rates are altered honorable members will have an opportunity to see what is proposed.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral explain why a telegram handed in in Brisbane at 10.30 a.m. yesterday did not reach Melbourne until after the dinner -hour at night, and why there was a similar delay in regard to a telegram from Melbourne?
– I am not aware of the facts, but I shall make inquiries.
– A few years ago I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General of the day to the depredations upon pillarboxes that were being committed in the suburbs of Melbourne, of which, according to a statement in to-day’s newspaper, there is a recurrence. I ask the PostmasterGeneral if his officials cannot do something to prevent the abstraction of letters from ‘pillar-boxes? If they have not the brains, will the honorable gentleman get some outside advice as to the best means to prevent the stealing of letters which have been posted in the suburban pillar-boxes?
– I recognise that the possibility of interference with letters posted in the pillar-boxes is a very serious thing. We have been trying to devise better-designed pillar-boxes which will not give opportunity for theft. I am not aware of the occurrence to which the honorable member refers, but I shall have an inquiry made regarding it.
– Has the control of lighthouses yet been taken over by the Commonwealth, or will it be taken over at the beginning of the year ? Will the lighthouse on Solitary Island, and other lighthouses on the New South Wales coast, be taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– I am not sure that the Solitary Island lighthouse is in the schedule. It is intended to give three months’ notice of the proposed new light dues, and that that notice shall be given before the end of the present year.
– I ask the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence why so many of the horses at the Broadmeadows camp have been invalided ? In my opinion, it is due to the nature of the ground on which they stand. Will the Minister see that better provision is made for the horses?
– The honorable member was good enough to bring this matter under my notice yesterday. He said that his view was that the horses were not being properly treated because of the way in which they were tied up. I have brought the matter under the notice of the Defence Department, with a view to having what is wrong altered.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether the plan of the capital city, for which he has asked Mr. Griffin, is the working drawings in section plan?
– The plan that I desired from Mr. Griffin is one showing the main levels for railways, bridges, avenues, and principal roads. I do not require every road-level to be shown.
– Bight through the city site?
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform me whether it is a fact, as stated in a brochure on town planning in Australia, that about 200 of the chief architects and engineers of Australia and Tasmania petitioned the late Government to appoint a Royal Commission of experts to review the built-up design for the Federal Capital prepared by the departmental Board?
– I am not aware.
– Since I understand from the Minister of Home Affairs that what he wants from Mr. W. B. Griffin before allowing the lay-out of the city proper to proceed at Canberra is the levels of the street crossings and railway crossings generally on the main roads, I ask him whether he is aware that the information has been available to his Department for a considerable time with regard to the city area itself, and further, whether he is aware that on the plan itself, as submitted by Mr. Griffin, the general levels are apparent to any one who does not want to shelter behind red-tape, by reason of the fact that the five feet contour surveys are marked throughout the whole area given?
– I am not aware of what the honorable member has said. It appears to me that there are obvious defects in the plan submitted by Mr. Griffin. If the honorable member will kindly put a question on the notice-paper he will get any information bearing on the subject. I think that he is confusing surveys which have been made for the departmental plan. So far as I know, there are no surveys by Mr. Griffin which “ the man in the street” or an ordinary man can form any conception of.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs make an inquiry, and inform the House whether upwards of 200 members in the highest professional ranks have protested- against the built-up design prepared by a Departmental Board, and handed in to the previous Minister?
– Yes, I will get the information for the honorable gentleman. At the same time I think it would be much better if an involved question of that kind were put on the notice-paper.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the House copies of the departmental plan of the Federal City which he said last week was in such a state that operations could bo immediately begun upon it?
– I think that the honorable member had better give notice of the question. It is only inspired outside; he knows all about it.
– I rise to order. I asked the Minister whether a certain departmental plan could be laid on the table of the House, and after making a reply ho said that the request had been inspired outside. Was the Minister in order, sir, in making an insinuation of that kind with regard to myself.
– If the Minister made the remarkfromanunworthy point of view, of course, it would not be in order, but I did not take it that he intended to convey that impression.
– Did. the Minister of Trade and Customs notice in yesterday morning’s newspapers a report that a conference of New South Wales cattlemen seemed to deplore the fact that so many heifers and calves are being slaughtered, and to suggest that it is likely to deplete the meat supply of Australia?
– I did not see the report, but I do not see what the Department can do in the matter. I do not know that we can stop people from doing whatthey like with their property. I presume that, as the cattlemen are taking up the subject seriously, some step will be taken. The matter is of interest to all of us, and if anything can be done it should be done as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that a large percentage of the cows supplied to the meat works on the Brisbane River are heavy in calf, and that many of them have been turned out of the slaughter yard, and have calved within 24 hours ?
– No; but I will have inquiries made, because I think that under the Commerce Act we’ can prohibit the carcasses of such cattle from being shipped.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs consider it necessary to take further action in regard to the report of Mr. Justice Street on the Beef Trust?
– I moved that the report be printed. I have not yet had time, as the honorable member can readily understand, to go into the matter, because I only received the report about ten days ago.
– Does not the Minister think that it is urgent ?
– I think the other business I have had to attend to here has been more urgent.
– In view of the fact that Russia and the Argentine have taken precautions to prevent the slaughter of their cows for beef, will the Minister of Trade and Customs during the recess consider a ‘scheme for protecting our own herds, and prohibit the export of cow beef ?
-Under the Commerce Act we have power to make a regulation prescribing that only a certain proportion of the beef exported shall comprise cow beef. We could take that action if we thought that our herds were being unduly depleted by the slaughtering of cows; but I am afraid that the only result of prohibiting the export of cow beef would be that it would be retained for disposal in the States.
– In reference to this matter of the export of beef, will the Minister, if he considers it at all, have regard to the fact that a great many cows in North Queensland are artificially sterilized, so that they make better beef than do steers.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member in order in asking the Minister “ If he does give any consideration to the question at all,” thus inferring that he is treating it with a lightness that is undeserved.
– I did not understand the honorable member to imply any disrespect to the Minister.
– Not at all.
– I shall have the matter fully inquired into, and if it is found that the number of cows so treated is undesirable, from the stand-point of the preservation of our herds, representations can be made to the proper authorities.
– It is very desirable.
Private Delves - Purveyors at Camps - Restoration of Kilts - Liquor at Liverpool Camp - Henderson Naval Base.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence be good enough to turn up the correspondence relating to a claim made on behalf of Private Edward Delves, Collingwood Regiment, for his pay during the time he was invalided through an accident which occurred to him on duty, and see whether it does not disclose undue circumlocution and delay?
– I will comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that purveyors of the necessaries of life who go to the different camps are charged licence fees, and, if so, will he see that the practice is discontinued ?
– I will have the matter looked into.
– Has the Assistant Minister seen the following cablegram in this morning’s newspaper: -
Field-Marshal Sir John French, in an order congratulating the Black Watch upon winning; fresh laurels on the Marne, says : - “ The- Jaeger of the German Guard after that battleceased to exist. You stuck to the line against treble your numbers. Your country is proudof von. The Russians have won fresh victories, and you, in holding back the Germans, have won great victories, too. Had you not donethis the Russians could not have achieved their successes.”
In view of that statement, will he reintroduce the kilted regiments ?
– Personally I am not an authority on kilts, but I will bringthe honorable member’s question before the Minister of Defence.
– Some time ago I asked, in reference to a report in a local newspaper, whether it was a fact that men at the Liverpool Camp were able to get as much liquor as they could pay for at the canteen, and as much as their credit would permit. The Assistant Minister of Defence promised to call for a report on the subject, and I desire to know if he has yet received it?
– Yes. An inquiry was. made, and the answer was that the report in the newspaper was absolutely inaccurate, and that no alcoholic liquor can be obtained at any canteen at Liverpool.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence yet able to place on the table of the House the report, together with plans and specifications, of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice on the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound, and if lie is not able to do so to-day. can ha do so before the House rises for Christmas 1
– I would like to be in a position to comply with the request of the right honorable gentleman, for the information of the House generally. These plans are being duly considered now by the Naval Board. There is only one set of the plans available, but had there been two sets I would have had much pleasure in complying with the request of the right honorable gentleman.
– Why cannot you allow him to see them privately?
– Is it the intention of the Department to withhold the report and plans from Parliament in the event of the Government disapproving them ? Is it not a general rule that reports received from authorities employed by the Government in regard to great works of this character are laid upon the table of the House as soon as received?
– As soon as the Government and the Naval Board, who have to make a recommendation to the Minister, have considered these plans-
– The Naval Board knows very little about the matter.
– That is not a proper attitude for the right honorable member to take up if he wishes to obtain these plans. Whether the Government approve or disapprove of the report and plans they will be laid on the table of the House as soon as possible.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether he has issued instructions to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral to cut out all works possible in connexion with the Postal Department during the present crisis?
– I do not know but that some such order was issued by my predecessor, but an instruction of that kind would be quite contrary to the policy of this Government. We are proceeding with all the works that it is possible to carry on.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General if he proposes to proceed with the construction of all the telephone lines that have been approved by his Department during the coming financial year? Is there any reason for their being delayed ?
– We are proceeding with the whole of the work that has been passed as rapidly as possible.
Settlement on the Daly River- Dairying Industry - Sheep.
– Two or three weeks ago the Minister of -External Affairs, when referring to the unsatisfactory nature of certain settlement that had taken place in the Northern Territory, promised to advise the House what was being done by the Government to obtain a more suitable class of settlers. I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether he is now in a position to state what is being done?
– The honorable member’s question evidently relates to the settlers on the Daly River. I informed the House at tha time that I did not consider the position of the settlers in question satisfactory; but the details being somewhat of a domestic character it is perhaps better that for the present the honorable member should obtain the particulars from the papers, which I shall place upon the Library table.
– Can the Minister of External Affairs give the House any information with regard to the dairying industry in the Northern Territory ? Just before the last election, at the urgent request of the Administrator, £5,000 was voted for the purchase of cows. Can the Minister state whether any success has attended the efforts of the Administrator in this direction?
– The cows have arrived at their destination, and everything is proceeding smoothly, but too short a time has elapsed since their purchase to permit of results of any magnitude in respect of such an industry as dairying.
– Have the cows been distributed amongst the settlers?
– Yes; and I believe they are much appreciated.
– I should like to learn from the Minister of External Affairs what has been the fate of the sheep of which we heard so much three or four months ago? The last we heard of them was that they had arrived at Anthony’s Lagoon. Have they reached their destination, and how are the lambs getting on?
– A question relating to the pastoral’ development of the Northern Territory is, I think, one of so much importance, that it should be given notice of.
Position of Pearl Shellers
– Has the attention of the Minister of ‘External Affairs been directed to a paragraph in yesterday morning’s newspapers to the effect that riots have occurred among the pearling population of Broome, and stating further that, owing to financial stringency, the pearlers would be unable to return to the islands, or other places from which they came, many of the natives employed in the industry? Does the Minister know anything of the matter; and, if the statement is true, does the Department intend to deport these men at the expense of the Government ?
– The newspaper reports in question have been confirmed by a telegram received by the Prime Minister from the Premier of Western Australia. Trouble has arisen at Broome, but the local authorities have been able to cope with it. As to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, it is doubtless convenient to convey the impression that the pearlers are without funds necessary to return these men to their homes in the distant islands. The pearlers, however, are under an obligation to return them, and we shall exhaust every means to compel them to discharge that obligation before considering the deportation of any of these natives at the expense of the Government.
– Some misapprehension has arisen from the reply given yesterday by the Prime Minister to a question put to him by the honorable member for Brisbane. I wish to know whether the Prime Minister, in referring to workers in the various Government factories who have been denied payment for working during the Christmas holidays, intended also to include temporary employes in the Public-
Service, such as telephone linemen, who, under an award of the Arbitration Court, have certain holidays allotted to them?
– My reply had reference to a special concession of holidays that I made when I last held office as Prime Minister. That concession was accepted; but those who remained on duty demanded double time in respect of the arrangement. All other holidays will be granted as usual.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the first two questions of the honorable member is “Yes.” In regard to No. 3, I shall draw attention to the representations which have been made by him on these points.
Purchase of Horses in Queensland - Brigade-Major, 9th Light Horse Regiment - Donations to Red Cross League.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
How many horses were purchased in Queensland for the First Expeditionary Force -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Dalgety and Company,, 92 horses; New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company, 140 horses; Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company, 24 horses.
It is desired to add that the system of purchase of horses by private firms was terminatedsome time ago.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is “Yes.”
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the required information will be furnished as early as possible.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill to provide for the grant of pensions upon the death or incapacity of members of the Defence Force of the Commonwealth and members of the Imperial Reserve Forces resident in Australia, whose death or incapacity results from their employment in connexion with warlike operations.
This is the formal motion upon which the War Pension Bill will be based. I shall reserve what I have to say on the subject until I move the second reading of the Bill. I hope that the Committee will permit this motion to pass in a formal way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
. I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members generally will join with me in regretting the necessity for legislation of this kind. It has fallen to the lot of a Labour Government to introduce this Bill, but I am quite satisfied that if the party represented by honorable members opposite had been in powerthey would have introduced a similar Bill. In the circumstances I take it that this will not be considered a party measure. The object of the Bill is to provide for the grant of pensions upon the death or incapacity of members of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth and members of the Imperial Reserve Forces resident in Australia, whose death, or incapacity results from their employment in connexion with warlike operations. The Bill has two main principles. The first is that a pension is to be provided for the nearest dependent, and for his children if he is married, of any officer or soldier who by reason of the war meets with his death. It is proposed also to provide a pension in the case of total incapacity arising from injuries received during the war. Any member of the Expeditionary Forces, or any person who has signed on in the Navy, who is totally incapacitated, will receive a pension during his lifetime, while his wife will be paid a half pension, and the children an allowance until they attainthe age of sixteen years, without distinction of sex. In cases of partial incapacity, as I shall show later on, the pension will be determined by a Pensions Board, subject to certain conditions. The Bill provides that every person who has enlisted, or been appointed for, or employed on active service outside Australia, or employed on a ship of war shall, together with his dependents, be entitled to a pension or an allowance. The Bill is retrospective as far back as the declaration of war, so as to embrace casualties and deaths which have occurred since then. According to the definition clause “ incapacity “ includes incapacity arising from disease, not due to default of a member of the Forces, contracted by him while on active service. This means, I take it, that if a soldier contracts pneumonia, consumption, or any other disease in consequence of his enlistment he shall be entitled to a pension.
– Does that include all diseases ?
– No; it will not include diseases for which the member of the Force is himself responsible, and I think that a very fair provision.
– This will, I take it, cover the cases of death at Broadmeadows?
– If those who have died had signed on. The list of dependents is extensive, as honorable members will see on reference to the definition clause. The administration of the Bill is to be vested in a Board appointed by the Government or Minister of Defence, and one member of the Board must be a medical practitioner. The fact that a medical practitioner is on the Board will insure due regard to the rights of all claimants, because he will be able to grasp the merits of any application from an expert point of view. Power is given by clause 7 to the Pensions Board, if it see fit, to review any assessment or determination that it has made. Any assessment made by the Board is subject to the approval of the Minister of Defence, so that any claimant who feels aggrieved may, on application to the Minister, have his case re-heard.
– Has the Minister power to override a decision of the Board ?
– I do not think so, although the decision is subject to his approval. According to clause 3, any claim for a pension must be made by dependents within six months of a notification in the Gazette of the death of the soldier, and in the case of incapacity the claim must be made within six months after the termination of the appointment or the discharge of the member.
– I suppose that parents or dependents will be notified of the death ?
– Yes. Colonel Fetherston, who is the commanding medical officer of the Forces, has been consulted, and he considers that six months is ample time to allow for the lodging of a claim. The rates of the pensions are fixed by clause 8, under three heads - death, total incapacity, and partial incapacity. In the case of death the widow will.be paid a pension varying, according to the rate of pay of the deceased, from £52 to £156 per annum, while each child until it reaches the age of sixteen years will be paid 5s. per week. One feature of this allowance to the children will, I think, appeal to honorable members. Whether the child be that of a brigadier-general, an officer, a captain, or a private the allowance is the same amount. In the event of total incapacity a member of the Forces will receive the full pension set forth, while his wife will be paid 50 per cent, of the pension, and each child 5s. per week. In the case of partial incapacity the amount of the pensions is left to the Board to determine. It will be seen that the Bill definitely lays down the amounts to be paid in case of death or total incapacity, whereas it becomes a matter for the Board when the incapacity is only partial, and the payment will vary with the injury. Provision is made for taking into account any compensation, pension, retiring allowance, and so forth, received by the claimant under other Acts. The Bill, in the opinion of the Government, is a fair and reasonable one, and makes due provision for our soldiers, their wives, children, and dependents.
– When the honorable gentleman says “ due “ provision, does he mean full provision ?
– I mean the provision for which the Government can take full responsibility. It is quite possible that many persons who will be eligible for a pensionunder this Bill will also be entitled to some other pension or gratuity under another Statute. In such cases the amounts to which they are entitled under other Acts must be taken into consideration, and the Commonwealth becomes responsible in the aggregate only for the sums which they can demand under this Bill. Consequently, soldiers will not be able to receive different pensions under different Acts.
– Where is provision made for that?
– In clause 3, sub-clause b. That is only a reasonable proposal.
– Are there any allowances to which a man might be entitled which would be greater than the amount provided for under this Bill? Would an officer of the Public Service get a larger sum by way of gratuity than is provided for in this measure?
– I take it that, under this Bill, that matter will have to be taken into consideration.
– He would lose his superannuation under the Public Service Act.
– The matter will require to be investigated. It is rather a serious one.
– Clause 9 provides that where the Board is satisfied that the rate of pension payable under this Bill will not be more than 30 per cent, of the rate which would be payable upon the total incapacity of any soldier, it may, with the sanction of the Minister, substitute the payment of a lump sum which, in its opinion, is equivalent to the pension. That is to say, the Minister is vested with power to buy out the right of any such soldier. For instance, a man may be allowed a pension of £15 a year for all time on the ground of his being partially incapacitated. This provision will enable him to approach the Minister, and to accept a lump sum in full satisfaction of his claim.
– A similar provision is embodied in the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– The Bill appears to be inequitable in that where a soldier is killed, his widow becomes entitled to receive the full amount of his pension, but where he is totally incapacitated he himself receives the pension, and his wife gets only half a pension.
– I would remind the Assistant Minister that he must not go into details in moving the second reading of the Bill.
– Clause 10 makes it clear that pensions payable to widows shall cease upon their re-marrying.
– Because a widow may have some loafer hanging on to her.
– I would not go so far as to say that. But where a widow is in receipt of a full pension on account of the death of her husband at the war, it seems only reasonable that if she should re-marry, her husband should make provision for her.
– Otherwise we shall have the American system introduced under which pensions will be paid over a hundred years.
– But the children of widows who re-marry are provided for until they reach sixteen years of age.
– Where is provision made for that?
– In clause 10. Clause 13 proposes to extend pensions to soldiers of the Imperial Reserve who are bond fide residents of Australia. In determining the pensions to which they are entitled, the amounts which they receive from the Imperial authorities must be taken into consideration, and must be deducted. If they do not get from the Imperial authorities as much as they would receive by way of pension under this Bill, the deficiency is to be made up to them. In other words, they are to be treated just as are our Australian soldiers.
– How do these pensions comparewith those paid by the Imperial authorities ?
– I will deal with that matter presently. In order to obtain this pension, any Imperial Reservist who goes to the seat of war must afterwards become a resident of Australia.
– There is no possibility of a man who has served in the British forces at Home, and who subsequently becomes a resident of the Commonwealth, participating in the pensions . payable under this Bill?
– No. I propose now to outline the way in which the amounts, of these pensions will be arrived at.
– Suppose that an Imperial Reservist residing with his wife and family in Australia joins the colours, and is killed on active service, will this Bill operate in such a way as to bestow any benefit upon his widow and family?
– Yes. As a basis, a pension of £52 per annum has been taken in the case of the lowest-paid soldier, who receives a wage of 6s. per day. For each increase of ls. in his daily rate of pay, up to and including 10s. 6d. per day, an increase of £4 has been made in the annual pension. For each increase of ls. in his daily pay above 10s. 6d. per day, up to and including 17s. 6d. per day, an increase of £3 has been made in the annual pension, and each increase of ls. in his daily pay above 17s. 6d. per day to a maximum of £2 10s. per day, an increase of £2 has been made in the annual pension. In the case of persons who receive more than 50s. per day, a uniform pension of £156 has been adopted.
– That is hardly fair.
– The honorable member must recollect that this pension scheme will cost the Commonwealth a big sum of money. It is practically the largest pension scheme in the world. I have consulted various authorities, and I may saythat there is no pension scheme in any other country which approaches this one from the stand-point of its liberality.
– It is less liberal in the case of officers than is the pension scheme of the Imperial authorities.
Mi. JENSEN. - But the Leader of the Opposition must recollect that the difference between officers and men of the Imperial Forces is very much greater. This pension scheme is a better one for ali concerned.
– As this Bill will apply to the Australian Navy, will the pensions to which Naval officers are entitled under it be the same as those payable to officers of the Imperial Navy?
– I do not think so.
– Then, you will have reparation between the two Units.
– The only provision is that which is made in the Bill.
– Are the British naval rates higher ?
– What does that matter, seeing that ours is an Australian and not an Imperial Navy?
– It would not be out of place to give the opinion of the Commonwealth Statist on this subject. It has been sought, not only by the present Government, but also by our predecessors, who took care to go into this matter before they left office.
– You have altered our scheme.
– We have made it a little higher in the lower rates. I think that the late Government proposed £50 for the widow, whereas we provide £52; and, whereas the late Government proposed £12 10s. for each child, we give £13.
– I thought that we proposed a minimum of £75.
– The difference is very small. Satisfactory pensions would be provided for under either scheme. On the 29th September, Mr. Knibbs wrote -
In compliance with your request of this morning, I have pleasure in enclosing the attached calculations in connexion with the question of compensation for the members of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force.
The scale of pensions submitted complies with the suggestion that the rate for widows n.nd totally disabled men should range, according to pay, from a minimum of £52 per annum for a pay of fis. per day to a maximum of £156 per annum for a salary of £900 per annum or over.
On the basis of this scale and the rates, death, and disablement set out in my memorandum of 13th August, I have made a rough estimate, of the initial cost per annum of such pensions in respect of a campaign of one year’s duration.
– Where does he get his average ?
– From all the records that he has looked up.
– To suggest that any statist can calculate the cost of these pensions is nonsense.
- Mr. Knibbs says that it is only a rough calculation; the mortality may be much heavier in this war.
– We may have half a regiment absolutely wiped out.
– I am endeavouring to show what Mr. Knibbs has worked out. His letter continues -
It must be understood that this estimate is subject to all the limitations pointed out in my previous correspondence, which, as explained in conversation, are most serious, the fact being that no real estimate is possible, and everything depends upon what the contingent is called upon to do.
War Mortality. - As the result of an examination of data relative to campaigns extending over nearly 100 years, Messrs. Smee and Ackland, in a report made by them in May, 1890, estimated the average death-rate of an army in the field from wounds and illness combined at about 5 per cent, per annum-
– Five per cent. ?
– That is about the biggest percentage killed in any battle.
- Mr. Knibbs’ letter continues -
But pointed out that in the case of the American Civil War (1861-66) the death-rate during the whole period of the war, viz., five years and two months, was as high as 7 per cent, per annum.
In the course of an_ investigation made by them into the mortality experience of the Imperial Forces during the war in South Africa (11th October, 1899, to 31st May, 1902), Messrs. Schooling and Rusher ascertained that the death-rates per cent, per annum during the whole period, viz., two years seven months, for the various branches of the Imperial Forces were as follows, mortality from wounds and from illness being separately shown, and officers being distinguished from non-commissioned1 officers and men : -
These figures indicate markedly higher rates of mortality from wounds, and markedly lower rates from illness, amongst officers in all branches than amongst non-commissioned officers and men, the death-rates fromall causes being, however, considerably higher amongst officers than amongst non-commissioned officers and men. For the whole campaign, for all branches of service, the death-rate per cent. per annum for officers was 5.32, and for noncom missioned officers and men, 3.82.
Those were the deaths from wounds and other causes during the South African war. Dealing with total and partial incapacity, which is far greater, Mr. Knibbs writes -
Invalidity Bisk. - Statistics of war casualties other than fatalities are not available, but figures are given in McLauchlan’s paper in respect of the numbers discharged from the British Army as invalids during the period 1886-1895. The rate of impairment so obtained for troops stationed in the United Kingdom was 16.2 per 1,000, or, approximately, 3.2 invalidities to each death.
– Surely there is something wrong there ! The troops must have been on service somewhere.
– In the United Kingdom there were three persons totally or partially incapacitated to every one where death occurred, a fact that must be taken into account in considering a pension scheme. Mr. Knibbs continues -
In the absence of more complete data it may perhaps be permissible to assume that the number of non-fatal casualties on the present occasion will bear approximately this ratio to the fatalities. This would give an invalidity rate of, say, 11 per cent. per annum for officers, and 8 per cent. per annum for non-commissioned officers and men. On the basis of these figures the expected numbers of the Australian Expeditionary Force invalided would be as follows: -
These only relate to the 20,000 troops who have already gone.
Out of the 20,000 who have gone, we car* expect that 1,630 will be incapacitated under the law of averages; though, if our soldiers reach the seat of war and go into the firing line, we may fear that, under the new methods of warfare, the losses will be far greater. Mr. Knibbs proceeds -
It is alsonecessary to make some assumption as to the proportions of those dying who leave dependents, since the compensation is much greater in the case of those who leave dependents than of those who do not. Taking the community as a whole, probably more than half of the males of early adult age have dependents either lineal or collateral, but as the existence of dependents will exercise a restraining influence on the desire to volunteer, it may, perhaps, be sufficiently accurate to assume that of those who die one-half leave dependents.
In the case of invalidity, an assumption must; be made as to the extent of incapacitation. In the absence of information on this point it may be assumed that one-half the cases result in total incapacitation, and that the remaining half result in varying degrees of incapacitation, such that, on the average, their claim rate is; 50 per cent. of that for total incapacitation. These assumptions combined are equivalent to. assuming an average rate of 75 per cent. of total incapacitation throughout. If it be further assumed that the average full annual payment to each invalided officer is £200. and to each non-commissioned officer and man is £72, the cost pur annum in respect of invalidity will be as follows for a campaign of a year’s duration : -
On the basis of tlie data and assumptions specified in tlie foregoing sections, it may be roughly estimated, in respect of thu Australian Expeditionary Force of 20,000 officers and men, that the cost for compensation of one year’s duration will be approximately £130,000 for death benefits, and an annual payment thereafter for invalidity benefits commencing at about £103.000, and gradually diminishing as tuc pensioners die.
Under the law of averages, in the sending away of a Force of 20,000 men, the death benefits for one year of service would be £130,000, and the capitalized value of invalidity benefits would be £1,230,000, or a total of £1,360,000. That is the minimum amount which it can be said, roughly, it will cost the Commonwealth for one year’s fighting.
– What is the total demand on the revenue ?
– On that estimate, £130,000 for death benefits and £102,000 for invalidity pensions per annum. Mr. Knibbs goes on to say -
If the campaign extended beyond one year the amount should be proportionately increased.
From the figures given above it would appear that if it were desired to secure by initial subscription or contribution a scale of compensation such as that assumed in the present report, the amount required to be raised in respect of each officer and man would be about £GS for each year of campaign.
– What will be the total cost per annum ?
– Roughly speaking, £230,000 for a Force of 20,000 men.
– I am afraid your capital value is too low.
– It is absurd.
- Mr. Knibbs says-
In other words, every 20,000 soldiers going to the front for one year’s service will cost the Commonwealth £1,360,000 in death benefits and pensions. If we send 50,000 officers and men to the seat of war the cost of one year’s death benefits and pensions will cost the Commonwealth £3,400,000; that is under tlie law of averages. Then, again, that may be very much underrated, because of the terrible methods adopted now in warfare.
I have been asked about the Imperial pensions. I understand that it is the intention of the Imperial authorities to adopt an altogether new pension scheme, and that notice to that effect has been given in the House of Commons, but, up to the occurrence of the present war, the following was the Imperial pensions scheme : -
– The Imperial rates have been doubled since.
– I made it clear that those were the “old rates. Let me give honorable members some idea of the cost of the American wars to the United States of America to date. The following figures are given in the World’s Almanac for 1914: -
United States Pension Statistics.
Total Disbursements for Pensions for all Wars and of the Peace Establishment.
War of the Revolution (estimate), 70,000,000 dol.; war of 1812 (service pension), 45,923,014 dol.; Indian wars (service pension), 12,241,273 dol.; war with Mexico (service pension), 47,232,572 dol.; civil war, 4,294,596,944 dol.; war with Spain and insurrection in the Philippine Islands, 42,185,230 dol.; regular establishment, 28,461,369 dol.; unclassified, 16,499,419 dol. Total disbursements for pensions, 4,557,539,824 dol.
Roughly speaking, that is nearly £900,000,000.
– What is the annual obligation?
– I have not those figures. According to the Estimates for 1914-15, as submitted to the House of Commons, the amount provided for Imperial Naval and Marine pensions was £1,605,900, and for Imperial Military pensions £1,977,000, or a total of £3,582,900.
– Is that for the current war?
– No; but those Estimates were made in the early part of this year.
– The Estimates were submitted in the light of the war.
– I do not think so.
– Yes; the present year’s Estimates were submitted as a war budget.
– The figures I have quoted are prior to the war.
– Those figures relate to the pensions of men who have retired from the services.
– I suppose such pensions would be included in the amount quoted. This Bill is drafted in such a way that I trust it will receive very little opposition from any member of the House. It is non-party in character, and it is the best provision that the Government can make in the circumstances. But if, in the future, we find that there has been any omission or defect whereby some person is not receiving exactly what he or she ought to get, I am sure the Government will be only too willing to bring down an amending measure to make this a complete Statute. In the circumstances, I ask honorable members to give the Bill a rapid passage through the Chamber.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will see that this is a very small measure to make certain alterations in the assessment machinery, so as to give effect to the taxation measure of which the House has just approved.
– It does a lot more than that.
– As the honorable member for Grey pointed out the schedule of taxation in the past did not include all the leasehold land that it will include after this Bill becomes law.
– That alters the whole face of the taxation proposals.
– The new legislation makes taxable a great number of leaseholds which were not taxable hitherto.
– It is also drawing in more freeholds”, and making the ratings higher.
– It will have the effect of including as taxable land extra leaseholds, in addition to any which are at present taxable. Land-holders are to be taxed on the aggregate of the estate, whether held in fee simple, under perpetual lease, or under conditional purchase, and the Bill will also apply to the taxable value of Crown leases. Practically speaking, all property of a taxable value of above £5,000 will bear its proportionate burden, both individually and in the aggregate, according to the size of the estates. There is an exemption in the case of mining leases to the extent that the value of any minerals reserved to the Crown shallbe excluded from the assessment.
– How are you going to assess the unimproved value of a mining lease ?
– It was done on the gold-fields of Queensland. It is a wellknown practice in that State to assess only the surface value of a mining lease, and not the value of the minerals within the mine. I do not think that this provision is likely to cause any difficulty. The surface value of leases must have a taxable value, altogether apart from the minerals won from the ground.
– What royalty do the Government collect on minerals in Queensland ?
– There used to be a royalty and a dividend duty, and in the case of Mount Morgan there was a royalty of1s. per oz., but I think the royalty was removed some time ago. The royalty was imposed, in the first instance, because it was discovered that the company had no legal right to the gold. When the concern was worth about £12,000,000, Mr. Justice Harding decided that the gold belonged to the Crown, and that the company had no title in it, and a Bill was thereupon hurriedly put through Parliament to give them the title; a small royalty being imposed, which was afterwards discontinued. I do not know the Victorian law on these matters. It is not proposed to ask lessees whose leases are merely annual to furnish assessments ; but all others must send in assessments, and the Commissioner will have the right to make investigations and independent assessments should he think it desirable to do so. Under that flexible arrange ment I do not think that grave injustice will arise.
– The Crown lessees will have to value the freehold that they lease.
– They will have to send in assessments. We do not aim at aggression or victimization. The Land Tax Commissioner is not only a very capable officer, but also a fair-minded man.
– As he is so capable and fair-minded, will the Prime Minister tell us whether he recommended the imposition of this taxation at this particular time?
-Would it be fair for me to do so ? This matter has nothing to do with the Land Tax Commissioner; it is the Government that takes responsibility for the proposal.
There has been considerable discussion as to how assessments will be made. In the words of the Land Tax Commissioner, this is what will happen -
The law will place on the land-owner the responsibility of stating the freehold value of his land, and4½ per cent. of this will be regarded as the economic leasehold rent. The value of this economic rent for the unexpired term of the lease will be found by appropriate tables, and the value of the rent paid to the Crown will be deducted from this economic rent value to find the value of the lease for purposes of taxation.
The memorandum continues -
It will not be incumbent upon a land-owner to make returns of any leases where the full economic rent is being paid, but if there is an under-statement of value the provision in the law relating to under-valuation of freehold land will be made to apply as far as practicable.
– The Commissioner will say whether properties are underrated.
– He will have independent powers in that matter, and I think that honorable members will have confidence in his judgment and impartiality.
– What method of assistance in appeals is proposed for lessees who differ from the Commissioner on the basis of valuation?
– Appeals are provided for in the principal Act.
– The provision does not work satisfactorily.
– It is proposed to widen the powers which the Commissioner has under section 66, giving him a discretion in cases of serious hardship to grant relief from taxation.
– The Commissioner has that power now.
– Yes. We propose to extend it.
– He has never exercised that power so far.
– It is proposed to extend his power to enable him to remit cases to a Board. That is a considerable concession.
– Will there be only one Board for the Commonwealth?
– The machinery must be wider than that, but the matter can be dealt with in Committee.
– Section 66 fixes the Board.
– I point out to honorable members that if they are going to discuss in the House questions which properly should be discussed in Committee, the debate on the second reading of Bills will be interminable. At this stage only general principles should be debated.
– There are no general principles in this Bill, sir. It is simply a piece of machinery.
– I wish to mention to the House a rather unfortunate matter which is ancillary to the measure, and directly connected with it. I stated, and the Government believed the statement to be correct, that the new scale of taxation was a true gradation, that the amendmentswould affect and include other taxable areas. I am informed now that there is a small angle in connexion with the proposed tax in which the increment of the rate of tax exceeds the limit provided for in the Bill. That was not the intention of the Government.
– Is it correct that the tax goes up to11d.?
– A mathematical examination has shown that in estates in the neighbourhood of £75,000 in value there is a little peak ; it takes a mysterious curve - a kind of aeroplane flight - and comes down again.
– It goes up, but does not come down again.
– It comes down to a flat rate of 9d.
– You had better put on the other penny and take the lot.
– We hope to find some method of adjusting this to what is really the policy of the Bill.
– The taxing Bill has been passed.
– There are means and methods to meet what is exactly in the minds of the Government and the Parliament. We had our best mathematicians engaged on the work.
– It was criticised in this morning’s press.
– I know that it was, but the discovery was only communicated to me this morning. We will seek a method of adjusting the difficulty. The question raised by the honorable member for Grey can be discussed better in Committee. So far as it goes the principle of this machinery is good, and will be a protection to the persons who may be taxed under it.
– I do not propose to delay the passage of the measure as it is one for considerationin Committee, except to say that I apprehend that this is not the whole of the machinery which will be required for the new arrangement.
– I think that will be so until later on.
– Later on?
– When we have more time and more necessity.
– It seems to me that this little piece of machinery will prove to be entirely inadequate so far as the whole scheme of taxation now proposed is concerned. Moreover, I think it is time that the whole machinery in the principal Act was overhauled. I have no doubt that when we meet again another amending machinery Bill will be ready for the House. Already we hear that things are not turning out as they should. I do not wonder at that, because the Government have undertaken a most difficult and delicate operation, and one, the end of which I do not pretend to foresee or appreciate properly. However, the Government say that they have mathematicians in the Departments who are setting all these things right by rule and rote. I hope that it may be the case, so far as the ascertainment of the value and the imposition of the tax are concerned. My attitude is a very simple one. I am opposed to this taxation at every point. In my judgment, nothing has occurred in connexion with the whole scheme of finance that the Government have submitted to the House which could not be rectified without the imposition of this taxation. It is wholly unnecessary, and for that reason I am opposed to it, without considering too closely the details.
.- I only rise to enter a protest against the whole of this legislation. It will go on record that I am opposed to these taxation proposals, “ lock, stock, and barrel.” I want to be perfectly frank and candid. I do not think that this is an opportune time for the introduction of such a measure as this; and, therefore, I intend to oppose it.
Question-That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 20 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1912 is amended -
Section proposed to be amended - 29.Notwithstanding anything in the last twopreceding 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 aperpetual lease), without revaluation, or a lease with a right of purchase, shall not be liable to assessment or taxation in respect of the estate.
.- There are one or two features of this clause to which I desire to direct attention. In the first place, there is a provision in subclause a which practically means that perpetual leases, which are liable to have their rentals re-appraised, shall be subject to taxation. I do not consider this to be consistent with the leasing principle. It is certainly inconsistent with the principle of land nationalization. In South Australia, for instance, we are not taxing perpetual leases that are liable to reappraisement of the rent, every fourteen years. The perpetual leasing system is not likely to be extended, and will certainly never become popular if lessees know that they are liable to be subjected to taxation between the intervals of valuation . A vital blow at the true principle of leasing is aimed by this part of theclause; but I am afraid, in view of the result of the recent division, that it would be hopeless to move an amendment. In South Australia, we made an effort to substitute the perpetual leasing system for the freehold system in 1888 and 1889, and I had a good deal to do with that attempt. On several occasions, I think even members of the then growing Labour party voted to take away the principle of re-valuation. But now certain perpetual leaseholds which are not liable to appraisement are subject to taxation under the State as well as under the Commonwealth law. All leases which are liable to have a revaluation every fourteen years, so as to give the Crown the true economic rent, are now, by this Bill, brought under our taxation principles, but not under the State taxation law.
– In South Australia, there are re-appraisements every fourteen years.
– Yes, in respect of some of the leases ; but, unfortunately, the principle of appraisement was taken away from other leases. It was a wrong step to take, but it has been done. I think we should leave the section in the Act as it stands. Under the Act as it stands it is only perpetual leases, not subject to the reappraisement of rental, which are liable to be taxed ; but we are now bringing under our taxation law leases that are subject to re-appraisement, and which represent the true principle of Crown leases, or, if you like to call it so, land nationalization.
– Then the honorable and learned member would treat perpetual leases with the right of re-appraisement differently from other leases?
– Yes. I know there is between some of them a difference only in degree. Where we give a pastoral lease for, say, 42 years, there is only one re-appraisement in some cases; but there is a distinction between these and the perpetual leases which were substituted for freehold with the object of giving the economic rent to the Crown. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. Under this clause, mines like those at Broken Hill will be taxed upon their unimproved value, and the value of the minerals will be taken into account since they are not reserved to the Crown. It is only the minerals that are reserved to the Crown that are not to be taken into account in settling the unimproved value. But all the Broken Hill mines are subject to leases at comparatively low rentals which give the minerals, during the duration of the lease, practically to the lessee. Is it right thatwe should bring in here a principle whichI do not think exists in New South Wales - the principle of taxing the unimproved value of Broken Hill leases ? If we do we shall take away one of the greatest inducements to prospecting which is undertaken in the hope of a big return being secured after an expenditure of many thousands of pounds.
– It is only the surface value that is considered.
– No, I think my reading is correct.
– Crown minerals are excluded.
– All the Broken Hill mining leases give to the lessees a right to the minerals, but we are now proposing to take the unimproved values of these leases, and to subject them to our system of taxation.
– Would royalties be assessed ?
– I do not like to say that that will occur. It might be held that a royalty was part of the minerals, and to the extent towhich minerals are reserved as royalites you may not make a deduction. But in the case of the great Broken Hill mine the royal metals, I think, are not reserved as minerals.
– What is the value of a Broken Hill lease without the improvements ?
– But the minerals are not improvements.
– Certainly not, but the means taken to secure those minerals are improvements.
– Undoubtedly so, but in New South Wales they are not taxed on the value of the discovered minerals. The leases were granted presumably because it was known when they were applied for that the minerals were there. There was no accidental discovery of those minerals by the owners. The one or two herdsmen who struck the outcrop of the lode in the first instance discovered the minerals. J. am afraid that this provision will act against a principle which to some extent I cherish as well as do some honorable members opposite, as regards perpetual leases with revaluations, and I fear that it will impose a very severe burden if we drag in the value of the minerals on these leases. I shall not move an amendment, but I felt that my duty required me to draw attention to this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
.- The first significant amendment made by clause 2 is to strike out the words “ without revaluation.” Under the old Act leases with revaluation were exempt, and the amendment now proposed will bring in all leases in Queensland under the seven years’ revaluation, and all leases in South Australia under the fourteen years’ revaluation, together with- the Western Lands Leases of New South Wales. It may be fairly assumed that where revaluation is at such short periods, the State sees that it gets the full economic value in the shape of the rents charged; and yet these lands, if added to others owned by the lessees, may be taxable. The clause will also include pastoral leases, grazing, cultivation, and homestead leases, and mining leases; though it does not cover the whole variety of leases in existence. For instance, in New South Wales there are settlement leases, conditional leases, and conditional purchase leases. The conditional purchase leases, so far as I understand, will be subject to taxation, but the conditional leases, which are not subject to purchase, will be exempt. Then there are improvement leases and annual leases, which, so far as I can see, will not be subject to taxation, together with what are called special leases.
– If the honorable member reads section 29 of the Act he will see that all leasehold estates under the law of the State are provided for if the amendment be made.
– So far as I can see after reading the section, the only leases subject to taxation under the original Act were perpetual leases without revaluation and conditional purchase leases. The leases I am now referring to are not ‘conditional purchase leases.
– But they are issued for pastoral, grazing, or mining purposes.
– I do not know. There are, for instance, quite a number of bee farms.
– But they would be under the value of £5,000.
– They may or may not when they are joined with other lands owned by the same man. However, whether the rental value is considered to be the economic value or not, the occupant is not saved from making a return, or from having the value added to his existing holdings, whether in town or country. It is quite clear that, though there may be no economic value, he will, under such circumstances, have to pay taxation. It is here, I think, that the increased revenue is going to be obtained. In Vic toria, there are what are known aa Mallee lands, and it is a question whether or not they will come within the proposed amendment. There are also what are known as grazing licences which would certainly not come under the Bill.
– These are subject to an annual terminable agreement.
– I think that in some of the vermin districts of Victoria there are some on a three years’ agreement.
– I am not aware of any.
– In South Australia there are a number of what are called miscellaneous leases with twenty-one years to run ; and, as I read the amendments, these leases would certainly not be subject to taxation. The clause describes the nature of the leases which are taxable, and to that extent it limits the operation of the section. The simplicity with which we are supposed to arrive at the value of land is remarkable. The problem is thrown at us as if it were something that any schoolboy could understand. The Land Tax Assessment Act provides that the unimproved value means the capital sum which the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bond fide seller would require, assuming the improvements made by him or his predecessor had not been made. It is quite clear that the improvements made on a lease or freehold are to be deducted from the unimproved value. But how will an owner arrive at a basis on which to assess himself? There are thousands of miles held in Australia under pastoral lease at a rental which varies from 2s. 6d. to 30s. per mile. How are we to arrive at the unimproved value of that land?
– What would be the unimproved value if the land were freehold?
– In the case of land let at 2s. 6d. per mile, if we calculated it on a 5 per cent, basis, and assume that tho rent paid is the proper one, the unimproved value is l/640th of 2s. 6d.
– That is not the value, but the rental. Suppose a man had a hundred miles of that land?
– Yes; what would be the unimproved value?
– It is plain that owners will capitalize the rent and return that.
-Will that be accepted?
– I do not know.
– I think that would be a very fair proposition. If the present rental, in the opinion of the check assessors, is considered to be the economic rent, there will be no revenue for the Commonwealth Government, but an immense expense will be incurred in maintaining a large staff of officials to go over the whole of the country and make the check valuations. Assuming, again, that there is no margin betwen the economic value and the rental paid, and, therefore, no tax due, the lessee, if he has other property in 1 he city or elsewhere, will have that added, and will thus be called upon to pay considerably more than he does at present.
– If the rental is assessed at the economic value, ft will add nothing to the value of any other freehold property.
– If I were clear as to that, I should feel easier in my mind.
– It is clear that there is no increment at all to the tenant.
– We have not been told that by the representatives of the Government. So far as I understand, whether there be an economic value or not the unimproved value will be added to that of any other holding a man may have. I venture to say that if that be the case, it will make a number of men, at present exempt, liable to taxation.
– -How is it possible in any ease where the rent measures the economic value, to add anything to the value of other freehold land ? What can be added ?
– Nothing ought to be added.
– It is not possible.
– I am afraid, however, that that is not the intention of the Bill; and I should like a clear explanation on the point. Assuming a man to be paying a rental which, on the determination of the State, is a fair one, and is the economic rent, such land should not be added to any further holdings a man may have, for the purposes of taxation.
– It could not be added. The whole estate in each State belongs to the Crown, and, therefore,’ it could not be added to the freeholder’s interest
– The honorable member seems very certain about the matter, but I should like the same assurance from the Treasury bench?
– I am not giving an assurance, but presenting an argument.
– It would considerably ease my mind if the point were cleared up. My object is to try, if possible, to prevent an injustice being done to the pastoralists in that particular country which this taxation will affect. Grave injustice will be done unless what is to be taxable is very clearly defined.
– The proposal is to tax the difference between the economic value and what the leaseholders already pay. If the leaseholders are paying the economic value, there is nothing to be taxed.
– We have not had that statement from the Government. Does this proposal include mineral leases?
– Yes, but not their mineral values.
– That point is not altogether clear.
– The proviso makes it clear.
– The reservation referred to in the proviso relates to the mineral rights reserved to the Crown when disposing of the surface rights of Crown lands. When a man takes up a mineral lease, he takes it up for a specific purpose, and obtains the right from the Crown to obtain the mineral contained in the ground, whether it be coal, gold, silver, copper, lead, or even oil. The Crown parts with its rights to the leaseholder subject to the latter carrying out certain labour covenants and paying an annual rent. The States in leasing the surface for grazing or other purposes reserve the mineral rights, but when a man takes up land under any form of mineral lease, he has a clear right to all the minerals contained in the area he leases.
– Sometimes there is a reservation below or above a certain depth.
– On the broad principle, I think I am correct in my statement.
– Has not the mineral leaseholder the right to use the land for cultivation ?
– No. He uses the land for the purpose of getting any metals he can out of it. My view is that when the Department determines the valuation of land in any district, the minerals will be taken into consideration in estimating the taxable value. This will be serious to Broken Hill arid to all mining companies operating throughout the Commonwealth. In assessing the Unimproved value, the leaseholder may deduct the value of machinery and improvements; but, apart from the figures so arrived at, the total value of the lease will be the amount taxable under this Bill. All mines proved to contain valuable minerals will realize at sale considerable amounts, so that the leaseholders will really have to state in their taxation returns what the mines will realize at sale, less the value of improvements.
– They will need to state practically the market value of the shares.
– The royalty and rental paid on coal mines in New South Wales will have to be considered in the light of whether they represent the economic value. The leaseholders of coal-mining areas, on being asked to furnish returns as to the unimproved values of their leases, must furnish values which cannot be nominal, and they will be taxable at the higher amounts. The trouble is that the Government propose to take the machinery used for freeholds and apply it to leaseholds. An honest return as to the unimproved value will be very difficult to obtain.
– How would the honorable member propose to do it?
– I think that the Government would be well advised to let this matter wait over until they can get more information.
– Especially as there is a penalty for supplying wrongful valuations.
– The penalties are severe. If I had land, I would assess on the basis of 4£ per cent, on the capitalized value of the rental, but the Department might not consider that assessment satisfactory.
– If an assessment is bond firle, no matter how much it may fall below the departmental estimate, no consequences will fall on the lessee.
– I am aware of that fact, but I recognise the great difficulty the mining leaseholder will have in sending in a return based on the value of what his lease would fetch if sold. A return sent in on the basis of the rental would be considerably under the actual value of the lease. The proviso, which says that in the assessment of a mineral lease the value of any mineral reserved to the Crown shall be excluded, does not affect mining leases; it only affects men holding surface rights; it does not clear the point as to how the leaseholder will make up his return. If he makes up a wrong return, there is a heavy penalty provided, and, although he may have submitted an assessment that is higher than the departmental assessment, months, and perhaps years, elapse before he can get the matter dealt with and secure a refund. Large sums of money are held in this way through decisions not being arrived at.
– Would you prefer to tax on the output of mines?
– The more we look into the matter of taxing mining leases, the more complicated it is. This taxation proposal will lead to considerable expenditure in the direction of checking assessments in order that the Department may make sure that it is not being deprived of legitimate revenue, but we cannot secure revenue from a large number of leaseholders, while in the case of others the tax will mean confiscation of their properties. There can be no justification for taxation imposed with the purpose of causing subdivision of leaseholds. There may be certain favoured localities in which the leasehold system can be applied to small holdings, but there could be no subdivision with occupation of the western part of New South Wales and the northern portion of South Australia, extending right through to Queensland and New South Wales. A one-time Commissioner of Crown lands in South Australia had the insane idea that this land could be held in smaller holdings. But the result of his policy was to cripple the whole of the pastoral area of the district, and years passed before the State Government could reconstitute the pastoral interests. The Royal Commission which investigated the matter, containing Labour representatives and practical men, realized that the country must be held in large holdings, and that only the continuance of large ‘moldings could justify putting men on to occupy it. While the subdivision idea may apply to freeholds it does not apply to leaseholds, and any intention on the part of the Government to mulct leaseholders to such an extent that it must mean subdivision or surrender of their areas would be criminal. The severe ravages of wild dogs in South Australia have caused the subdivision of the whole of the northern area into vermin districts. Money is advanced by the Crown on twenty years’ terms for repayment, but no lessee can surrender his lease during that twenty years unless he pays his total share of the cost of the fencing.
– Do not the wild dogs depreciate the value of the land ?
– Of course they do.
– Then that is an answer to the honorable member’s argument.
– It is not an answer. When the honorable member was speaking the other day, I cited the case of a leaseholder who had to spend £60 a mile on a fence, and had to pay a rate of £1 per mile for twenty years for the area enclosed in order to repay the cost of the fence, but the honorable member said that this was an annual payment, and could not be deducted from the valuation of improvements, though it is clearly added rental.
– I do not know that I said that, but I say clearly and without reservation that in no case can improvements be considered part of unimproved value of freehold or leasehold land. The honorable member can create difficulties, but the principle stands, that we cannot call the unimproved value the improved value.
– The Minister said that if, at the end of the lease, the lessee had an interest in the improvements, they could not be deducted, as would be the case with onerous conditions attaching to a lease. As a matter of fact, in many cases wire netting will not last twenty years, and will probably have to be replaced before the expiration of that period. It is of no value to the lease at the end of twenty years, but, at the same time, it is an added annual rental. If I am compelled on a lease, on which I pay an annual rental of 10s. per mile, to put up a fence costing annually £1 per mile, it is clearly added rental; because without that it is impossible to occupy the land. I raise these points because I am quite satisfied that there are a lot of anomalies and misconceptions in regard to what this Act is going to do, and I would again seriously suggest that the Government should allow this measure to be postponed. The House will be re-assembling in four months’ time, and in the interval we can get information from the Department, and investigate particular cases, so as to be sure that we are doing no injustice.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I cannot allow this clause to pass without expressing my strenuous opposition toit, because this is the main clause in connexion with the proposed taxation of leaseholds. Without this clause it would be impossible to put any tax upon leaseholds. Therefore, we desire at this stage to emphasize our opposition to the whole of this additional impost. In regard to paragraph c, I first read it to provide exactly what we required, namely, that in connexion with mining leases from the Crown the value of the mineral reserved to the Crown, and leased by the Crown to individuals, would be excluded from the assessment. On further consideration of this paragraph it seems to me to be intended to mean the opposite. For. the gold-mining leases in Western Australia, for instance, only a nominal rent is paid ; I think it is about £1 per acre for a lease of 24 acres.
– Is any royalty paid ?
– No; only a nominal rental is asked by the Crown, because it is recognised that a great deal of capital has to be expended on the lease before a mine can be developed. In some instances the leaseholders make profits, but I think in the majority of instances they do not. What, then, is the meaning of this paragraph ? The unimproved value of the mining lease before it is explored and opened up is worth nothing. The gold, silver, and precious metals are reserved to the Crown, but the mining lease hands all those metals over to the lessee, and anything he is able to find in the lease becomes his own. What will be the position of the lessees under this proposed clause ?
– Is not a royalty paid on the gold won?
– No. There was a royalty of 2s. 6d. per oz. at one time, but that was withdrawn. A great deal of the money earned by gold mines is paid away for wages and other expenses incurred in the carrying on of operations. Only a few mines pay good dividends. I would ask the AttorneyGeneral to inform the Committee what the paragraph means.. The taxable value of a mining lease cannot be based on the output for preceding or subsequent years. The output for the current year might possibly be made the basis of taxation, but that would be an unfair basis. If it is possible to obtain any revenue from these mineral leases, that revenue should go to the States, which have incurred vast expenditure in the development of the mining industry. The Commonwealth is now imposing a tax which the States have not imposed, because they know that, although there are some productive leases, mining as a whole is a struggling industry. If it is the intention of the Government to exclude the value of any minerals that are reserved to the Crown, that point should be made perfectly clear. I shall do my best to defeat this clause imposing taxation upon the Crown leases of Australia. We ought not to judge the proposal according to its effect on any particular State, because in some States there is very little leasehold ; we should judge it by its effect on Australia as a whole.
.- The Government would be wise to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey that the Bill should be withdrawn until inquiries can be made as to the effect the proposed taxation is likely to have upon the lessees throughout Australia. The interjection of the AttorneyGeneral that, if the wild dogs depreciated the land to such an extent that it retained no taxable value, such land would not be taxed, was, in effect, saying that if the dogs did not attack the leaseholder the Labour party would, and if the dogs had left anything of value in the land the Labour party would collect it. Parliament was wise in exempting certain leasehold properties from the original land tax, but this measure proposes to bring all those properties into the dragnet of taxation. Are we to regard this as an admission that the tax is not intended for the bursting up of estates, but only for the raising of revenue ? The majority of the rank and file of the Labour party have in their minds the idea that this tax will make available to the people land that is at present locked up and, incidentally, will bring revenue to the public treasury. The Land Tax Commissioner holds that all taxation assessed against an individual is charged on the whole of his property, and no part of the charge can be allocated to any one property. A man owning a freehold pro perty of the value of, say, £20,000 a year on which he has to pay taxation, and having in addition leasehold property on which this tax will operate may find himself in difficulties as a result of the drought and this further impost. He may decide to dispose of his leaseholds in order to meet his liabilities, but, by the decisions of the Land Tax Commissioner, and also according to the provisions of the Act, the land-holder will be prevented from disposing of his leaseholds until he pays up the whole of his liabilities. It seems to me that it will be a hardship on quite a number of property owners and leaseholders if they cannot realize on their holdings, because this taxation legislation ties up the property. I hope the Government will see their way clear to see that such leaseholders are not debarred from realizing on portion of their holdings, simply because the Land Tax Act provides that all those holdings shall be assessed as one property. The Prime Minister is making good his promise to the country that Australia’s last shilling would be spent in defence of the Empire, but, unfortunately, he is taking that last shilling out of the pockets of one class and leaving untouched the great mass of the people. Every one is only too anxious and willing to do his or her share towards bearing the burdens imposed upon the finances of Australia at the present time, but this taxation is seeking out one section of the community who are being hard hit by the drought and by the falling off in their production. In that way it is a double tax. The land-holders have come nobly to the assistance of the Government, and the House was informed this morning that the pastoralists in Queensland had given nearly 900 horses to the Expeditionary Forces. In addition to that they offered to equip a complete regiment to go abroad to fight the country’s battles. Now the Government comes along with these taxation proposals, which exploit, not only the resources of private individuals, but also the revenues of the States, whose financial difficulties at present are, perhaps, even greater than those of the Commonwealth. The proposed taxation will depreciate the value of Crown lands held by lessees. In Queensland about 94 per cent, of the area of the State is still unalienated, and very large tracts of country are held by lessees, the leases being subject to periodic reappraisement. This tax must depreciate the value of those leases. I hope that, if the Government will not withdraw the Bill, it will at least accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey, and postpone its further consideration until Parliament meets in the New Year, when we shall be in a better position to know what effect its imposts will have on the people of Australia.
– I can understand honorable members objecting to the clause, and to the Bill, on the ground that the proposed tax will not yield much revenue to the Treasury, but I cannot understand the argument that the taxation of Crown leases is inequitable. The parent Act and State Acts attempt to tax interests in private leaseholds, and to allocate between lessor and lessee the taxable value of property, and why should the tenant of the Crown be in this matter in a position different from that of the private lessee?
– One reason is that his land is situated out in the back country.
– That may be a reason why he should not be heavily taxed; it does not affect the principle.
– We say that the tax will be disastrous to him. Then there is the drought.
– That is a temporary and passing phase, which does hot affect the principle, although it may be an argument for deferring the operation of the Bill. Some honorable gentlemen seem to regard the difficulty of assessment as the chief argument against the Bill. The honorable member for Grey is poised in doubt between his loyalty to his party and liii desire to protect the interests with which he is acquainted in the State from which he comes - a natural and laudable desire.
– He knows a good deal about the matter.
– And so do others who have studied the question for a long time. The honorable member for Grey seems to think that the assessment will either produce injustice or prevent revenue from being obtained. If the Commissioner is going to assess much above the rent of the lessees and to make the tax a rack tax by placing his economic value much above the rent paid to the Crow, he will produce injustice that will bring about com plaints. I am not particularly influenced in my consideration of this question by the formula on which the Government relies. I say from acquaintance with many of the leasehold interests in my State, which, it is true, are not so large as those in other States, that in nine cases out of ten the lessee will assess the value of his property for taxable purposes at the amount which he pays in rent to the StateWhatever the duration of his lease may be, he will argue that he has made a fair compact with the State, and that, having undertaken to pay a rental of Id. an acre, or whatever the amount may be, he is paying the full value of tlie land. Then the Commissioner will have to determine whether the lessee’s self valuation is a fair one. If the Commissioner makes an assessment which is very much higher than the rental, there will be trouble and injustice in some cases. On the other hand, if he does not, there will be little or no revenue for the Commonwealth. I do not think that section 29, exempting Crown lessees, should have been inserted in the principal Act, but I do not think that the present proposal will benefit toe Treasury much. It is a case of much cry and little wool.
– Time alone will show what the tax will produce.
– Experience will show that it will depend largely upon the discretion of the Commissioner whether the principle can be applied with justice in individual cases. I cannot see my way to vote for the continuation of an exemption which, on the ground of high policy, I think should not have been granted. The taxation of mining leases will be found somewhat difficult. The States have attempted such taxation, but not with complete satisfaction. As the Bill stands, it is plain that in assessing the value of a mineral lease the value of the minerals in it which are reserved to the Crown are excluded, the assumption being that all other minerals must be included.
– All minerals that are not the subject of reservation to the Crown must be included.
– Such minerals will be taxed.
– The value of minerals not reserved to the Crown will be taxable.
– To take the case that is in the mind of the honorable member for
Grey, the lease of a copper mine where the copper is not reserved to the Crown ; the duty of the person assessing that leasehold will be to arrive at the total value of the property, and to deduct from that value the value of the improvements upon it, such as buildings, fences, drains, shafts, machinery,&c., assessing the balance as the unimproved value of the land. In other words, the Crown taxes the value of mineral deposits passing with the right to mine them to private individuals or corporations who have leased the land in which they lie. I am not sure that that is not right. It is arguable whether the great deposits of base or precious metals which lie below the surface of land should not be taxable just as the surface of the land is taxable.
Mr.Fenton. - They could be taxed only if the operation of mining for them were proving profitable.
– Whether a particular lease was profitable or prospectively profitable would be a matter for the determination of the assessor.
– There might be a loss on the mining operations of any year.
– The average assessor in dealing with a property which was not yielding any return would say that, judging by results to date, it had no taxable value; but that could not be said of the big properties owned by the mining companies at Broken Hill and Newcastle and some other places, where huge sources of wealth are taken from the bowels of the earth to enrich private individuals. That wealth ought to be as taxable as if it lay on the surface.
– If the honorable member were an assessor that is how he would view the matter?
– Yes; if the minerals were not reserved to the Crown, but passed with the lease to the lessee. These huge deposits of minerals are the gift of God to the nation. Like the land itself, they are for the sustenance and support of the whole people. I do not think that they should pass to private individuals without the Crown having the right to tax them. The fact that they lie below the surface does not alter matters. We tax freely enough, indeed, much too freely, everything lying above the surface, and the fact that wealth lies below the surface should not give it immunity from taxation. The honorable member for Grey feared that where the same individual had freehold and leasehold property, and the value of the leasehold was equal to the rent paid to the Crown, the addition of that leasehold to the freehold might increase the taxation of the freehold. For instance, a man might have an estate in fee-simple whose unimproved value was worth £10,000. He might also be the lessee of other land whose economic value was equal to the rent he paid for it to the Crown. If it were admitted that he had no taxable interest in the lease, how could the possession of the leasehold increase the taxation of his freehold ?
– Where the lessee pays in effect a rack-rent, there will be no. tax.
– In the economic sense, a rack-rent is a rent above the value, not merely the full value.
– Rack-rent is the highest rent obtainable under the circumstances.
– Precisely. It is very often morethan the intrinsic, productive, or sight value.
– It would not be in this case.
– It better illustrates what we mean than does the term economic rent, which is rather misleading in this connexion.
– I do not think that either term sets out exactly what is apparently in the mind of the Government, but that used probably gets closer to it than does the word rack-rent. You try to get the full-use value of the land under conditions in which you can use it. You try to assess it, and to see if there is any difference between that and the rent which the lessee is paying to the Crown. If there is, then the Commonwealth declares that to be the taxable interest that it is assessing at that particular stage.
– That is the taxable estate upon which we levy. We do not take the difference. We only tax the difference. That is a most important distinction.
– I am aware of that. If the difference between the rent and the economic value be £1,000, then that £1,000 is taxable at the rate of 6d. in the £1, or whatever it may be.
– Will the honorable member deal with the question of added value ?
– If there is a difference between the economic value and the rental paid, it will be added. Why should it not be added ?
– I do not object to that.
– Let us assume that the rent is 99 per cent, of the economic value of a particular lease. One per cent, is added to the taxable interest of the freehold or leasehold interest of the owner in other respects. I do not think the Ministry would be justified in holding up the present session in order to affirm this principle. It is, after all, largely the affirmation of a principle which they seek, and they will not obtain very much revenue from it.
– We must make a start.
– It is wise at any time to make a start from a bad principle to a good one. The States do not try to-day to rack-rent their tenants. Tenants obtain large areas, which are not useful for any other purpose, and the States try to get such value as they can.
– Will this not be unfair in the case of leases with periodic reappraisements ?
– Let us assume that a man has a seven years’ lease, which has run half its course. In that case there will be no re-appraisement by the State Department for three and a half years. Meantime the Commonwealth steps in, ascertains the taxable interest, and taxes it in respect of the three and a half years’ period. But when the next reappraisement is due, the State gets level, so to speak, with the Commonwealth. It says, in effect, “ Up goes our rent to the full economic value,” and then out goes the Commonwealth as the authority taxing that particular interest.
– It is a matter of opinion what that value is.
– I am assuming that it is ascertainable. I recognise the difficulty in respect of this particular process, which the honorable member for Wannon pointed out.
– Leases, in many cases, have long terms to run.
– Whether the period is long or short, the Crown, as represented by the State, will say, “ We will not let this revenue drift indefinitely into the Commonwealth Treasury. We shall put up our rents to represent the economic value,” and the Commonwealth taxation will be affected accordingly. This pro posal does not seem to me to touch the question of land settlement. There can be no desire of an earnest character on the part of the Ministry to effect their dispersal policy by means of this addition to the principal Act. I quite agree with those who represent the back country that in nine cases out of ten these leasehold areas cannot be settled in any better way than they are at present. Having regard to the opinions expressed by representatives of Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia, it is doubtful whether there will be any form of closer settlement on many of them in our time. Even if railways were pushed into such country, they would not in some cases lead to a higher form of production on these leaseholds. It is therefore idle to try to secure the incidental effect of dispersal from a tax on leaseholds in Australia.
– Not while a lease is running, but when application is made for renewal this may have such an effect.
– Everything depends on the character of the soil and many other conditions.
– That consideration would apply also to freehold.
– Quite so. We had an experience some- little while ago in the North-Western District of Victoria, to which I shall refer. We had there what to us seemed very extensive leaseholds, although, compared with some leases in the larger States, they were not big. We came to the conclusion that it was time that we had a better form of settlement in “Ned’s Corner,” as we call the country to the west of Mildura and on the South Australian border. We therefore cut up the leases on a totally different principle from that previously followed. We expected to push out the larger lessees and to bring in a number of smaller men.
– There was a rainfall there.
– We had a number of favorable conditions, because all the leases, as we cut them up, bordered on the Murray, and there was a prospect that railways from South. Australia or Victoria would be pushed out and would serve that part of the country, at all events for stock purposes. Notwithstanding this favorable conjunction of prospects, however, we were disappointed. We did not secure any fresh tenders worth talking about, and eventually, when we let these areas in a number of small leases, the conditions secured were no better than those which first obtained. That probably will be our experience in this stage of development all over Australia, at least so far as the less thickly populated parts of the Commonwealth are concerned. But even if the Crown, through the Commonwealth, could effect a better form of settlement, any attempt in that direction would be an interference with State functions. I believe that the States are tackling this problem and doing the best they can with it. They know more about local conditions than we do, because they are in closer touch with them. In other words, they are the best custodians of land settlement interests at this particular stage of our national development.
– What about the 99-year leases ?
– I do not know that there are any in existence.
– There are in Sydney.
– There are very few which have not fallen in. In some suburbs they have already fallen in.
– There are Church and School lands.
– I know of some that have become private property - gifts from the earlier days of settlement in New South Wales. I shall support this proposition, although most of my honorable friends on this side think I am something of a renegade in offering these opinions.
– Not at all.
– We have the freedom which the other sideare denied.
– One honorable member opposite, who is unofficially attached to the Government - the honorable member for Gippsland - crossed the chamber and voted with the honorable member for Darling and his colleagues on this side of the House. This need not be a party question. It is one that is susceptible to a difference of opinion, but it has always appeared to me that a mistake was made - and I say this with the greatestrespect to the legislators of those days - when they embodied section 29 in the Principal Act. But with the amendments which this Bill will make I think not the weight, but certainly the area, of land taxation throughout the Common wealth will be more equitably spread.I do not wish it to be thought that, because I speak in this way, I support the land tax proposals of the Government generally. I think that their proposals to tax at this stage, and at the rates set forth by them, are burdensome and wrong, but if they are to go on they should go over the proper area, and not merely over the freehold interests hitherto taxed.
– There are two points which deserve the attention of the AttorneyGeneral. One of them is highly technical, although very important, and the other is of a more substantial character. In the first place, the effect of this provision, introduced into the Act as it now stands, will be to make the lessees under future pastoral or agricultural leases liable to pay on the whole freehold, fee-simple value of the estate without any reduction in respect of the rental payable to the Crown. With regard to leases hereafter existing section 27 governs the position. It provides that the owner of a leasehold is to be deemed the owner of the fee-simple. He will not be able to deduct any rent payable by himself to the Crown. The section declares that -
He shall be entitled to deduct from the tax payable by him in respect of the land, an amount equal to the sum of the amounts payable in respect of the land by the owners of any freehold estate, and of any precedent leasehold estate in the land.
That does not apply. Then sub-section 3 is intended, I think, to get him out of this difficulty, but it does not do so, because it says that -
Notwithstanding anything in this section, where the owner of the fee-simple of the land is exempt under section 13 of this Act from taxation - the lessee of the land is to be taxed as if his lease were created before the Act. Then, under section 28, it would be merely an assessment of his leasehold estate. The highly technical point which the AttorneyGeneral should take into consideration is that sub-section 3 does not apply at all to these cases, because the Crown is not included under it. Where the owner of the fee-simple of the land is exempt under section 13, then the next section is to apply. But the Crown is not the owner of the fee-simple. Section 13 exempts the Crown, it is true, and most of the other exemptions are exemptions of the feesimple; but the owner is not the owner of the fee-simple until there has been created an estate known as the fee-simple. Therefore, this would not have any effect. The difficulty can be got over by a simple change of words. As it stands, the Crown is not the owner of the fee-simple, and, therefore, the actual effect would be to make all future leaseholds the subject of this tax without any reduction for the rent payable by the Crown.
– Does the honorable member say that they fall under section 27> and not under section 28 ?
– Yes. I do not propose to suggest the necessary amendment, because I think the AttorneyGeneral should consult his draftsman about the matter.
– I shall certainly look carefully into the matter, but it appears ro me that they are included under subsection 3.
– The honor-
Able gentleman means to say that the Crown is the owner of the fee-simple?
– In that case, what is the application of sub-section 3 ?
– It does not apply to Crown leases at all. It applies, to other leases, ot it may apply to leases such as those granted for charitable purposes, or to friendly societies.
– I wish to say that, whatever may be the effect, the intention is that the lessee shall have the benefit of the improvements.
– I have no doubt of that, and, therefore, I have drawn the Attorney-General’s attention to the matter. The other point is one of much more substantial difficulty. I shall say a word in a moment or two about tlie general policy of taxing mining leases ; but, assuming that we are going to do so, I suggest that the proviso should read in this way -
Provided that in the assessment of the unimproved value of any lease the value of any metals or mineral”! reserved to the Grown shall he excluded.
Without reading the whole of section 28 in its technical terms, I may say that .its effect with regard to leases, before the coming into operation of the Act, and in regard to existing leases, is to direct the Commissioner to assess the value of a leasehold estate, by imposing on the lessee the obligation of being the feesimple holder, and allowing certain deductions. The section then goes on to say in sub-section 3a -
For the purposes of this section -
That is how the Commissioner is directed to assess the leasehold interest of a man under the Crown or otherwise. In regard to Crown leases there is a serious difficulty involved in the application of this test, unless the alteration I have suggested is made in the proviso. A pastoral lease only authorizes a man to occupy the surface for pastoral purposes, and, of course, reserves to the Crown all rights in regard to metals and minerals under the surface. But, according to the method prescribed, the Commissioner is directed to take, not the unimproved value, but the full value of the whole of the land, including all minerals and metals under the soil in which the tenant has no right at all, and from that subtract the value of the rent calculated actuarily.
– In some cases the tenant has rights in the minerals, and in some cases he has not.
– Where a - tenant has such rights he ought to be taxed on them, but not otherwise. The object is, of course, to tax the actual usable interest which the tenant has. If we turn to the definition of the unimproved value we find that it means the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such _ reasonable terms as a bond fide seller would require. The fee-simple of the land includes not merely the right to occupy the land for pastoral or agricultural purposes, but the right to all minerals and metals under the soil. The Commissioner, under the clause as it stands, would be obliged to say, in the case of a lessee in Queensland, for instance, “My duty is to find what is the value of the land, including all minerals and metals - everything from the centre to the sky.”
– Not if it is a lease for pastoral purposes.
– I am pointing out to the Attorney-General, not what he desires to do, but what the actual language of the clause will effect.
– I do not agree with the honorable gentleman’s interpretation.
-I have already quoted the definition of the unimproved value, and it assumes that the improvements, if any, made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor have not been made. Improvements do not include minerals; improvements are improvements, and the unimproved value of the land is the value of the land, and not the value of the right to occupy the land for pastoral, grazing, or agricultural purposes.
– Does a pastoral lease entitle the lessee to use the land for mining purposes?
– No: we give to the pastoral lessee a very modified use of the land - of the surface of the land - but we tell the Commissioner, in assessing the value of the land, to take the value of the land, and not the value of the user. In other words, the whole value of the land is taken, and from that is subtracted the rent the lessee pays.
– Is it not clear, from the first line of the subsection, that it is only the leasehold in the estate that we are valuing, and not the value of the land ?
– The honorable member cannot, I think, have been following me.
– I have.
– Subsection 2 points out that the only thing that has to be valued is the leaseholder’s interest, and then we are told that interest is to be found by taking the value of the land, and not the value of that interest. The whole value of the land is taken, as though purchased in fee-simple with metals and all, and from that is subtracted the rent the lessee actually pays. Of course I know that that is not intended, and that is why I am drawing attention to the matter. .
– What right has the valuer to assume that there are minerals there, if the land is being used under pastoral right?
– He has no right to assume that there are minerals there, and it may or may not be known that there are; but it would be part of the evidence on which the total fee-simple value of the land would depend. Let us take the case where a pastoral lease is granted over land known to be auriferous in parts. The valuer, if this direction is left as at present, is bound to take the value of that land - to take the whole value of it, as known to possess auriferous deposits - as the basis of his calculation, and subtract from it only the rent on an actuarial basis which the tenant pays.
– That seems an exceptionally speculative valuation.
– I am not telling honorable members what I think is desirable, or arguing for the policy. We all desire to attain the same end, namely, the full value of the leasehold interest; and I am endeavouring to show that a direction is imposed which will not enable us to arrive at that end, but a totally different one. The Court, for instance, in hearing an appeal from such a valuation, would say, “ It seems a strange thing, and probably it was never intended by Parliament, to tax this man on a value based on an auriferous deposit known to exist under his lease.” My only object is to find a way in which the measure of a lessee’s interest may be the actual, and not an absurd, measure.
– Accepting the honorable member’s interpretation, does it not mean that present private leaseholders are being improperly subjected to taxation under the existing law, seeing that they are being assessed in the manner prescribed by subsection 3a ?
– It all depends on the form of the lease, the rights given, and so forth.
– But a perpetual leaseholder from the Crown with reservations would be wrongly assessed?
– Precisely. I have no doubt that in a great many cases the valuers would reject such a conclusion as absurd, and one that Parliament never intended ; but that does not exonerate us from the obligation of giving directions that can be strictly obeyed. I suggest an amendment of the proviso as a means of getting over the difficulty.
– What about oil deposits ?
– I think that most subterranean oil deposits are in the nature of mineral deposits, but perhaps the proviso might be made more general, so as to include everything reserved to the Crown.
– Would the honorable member’s suggested proviso include cases where the precious metals are reserved to the Crown under ordinary law in fee-simple, and where the Crown gives a mining lease?
– Then the individual at once becomes liable to the tax.
– But that is always the case. What is the utility of inserting those words if t’ae pastoralist is to be liable to the tax?
– The pastoralist should be liable only in respect to his pastoral interests, but if the reserved metals in his lease are worked by another person he should be taxed. But there should be no proposition to tax the pastoralist upon the minerals that he cannot work. The tax should fall upon the user, according to the interest a man has in a particular piece of land, no matter what it may be.
– Will the honorable member deal with the wider question of whether unreserved minerals should be dealt with?
– I have considerable doubt as to whether mineral leases should be included in a general system of land taxation. The general principle on which land taxation is based is that land is in the nature of a monopoly, permanently possessed, and that owing to the increased value given by the efforts of the community the States should derive some portion of it. The principle in regard to mining leases is quite different. A mining lease is a wasting property, a possession given to a man to use and exhaust. The value of a mine has no accretion of unearned increment. A mine does not stand in the same position in regard to the principle of land taxation as the occupation of ordinary land in the city or in the country.
– I do not agree with that altogether. Take a coal mine, for example.
– Of course the value of a coal mine may depend on its nearness to the market.
– And so, to an extent, with iron.
– Means of communication and transport are of importance in regard to nearly all mines, and this fact should be regarded in assessing their valuation. The principles of unimproved land values taxation are not to anything like the same degree applicable to any mining propositions, and they are not at all applicable to precious metals. The State gives away property which is to be exhausted during the operation of the lease, and, therefore, .there is no reason for the application of the principles of land taxation. As a matter of practical policy, mining operations are purely speculative. It is almost impossible to ascertain an estimate of the value of metals not yet investigated.
– The mining industry, more than any other industry, is a co-partnership between labour and capital in which both take risks, especially when labour is engaged on the tribute system. Mining stands on a basis quite different from the exclusive occupation by a single man of an area of country.
– What about quarrying for stone ?
– Quarries are more or less questions of degree. The value of a quarry is immensely increased by proximity to a railway. The whole question of metals, more especially precious metals as distinct from minerals, is a proposition distinct ‘from the ordinary permanent occupation of a portion of the earth’s surface..
– You mean that if mines are taxed they should be taxed in a different way.
– That is my view. But at the same time I think that the taxation of mining propositions, at the present juncture, would be imprudent. We are not really taxing a monopoly. The State makes a rough estimate of the royalty or rent it gets based on the probabilities of successful mining for precious metals, and our .taxation would be imposing a handicap on an industry which, being purely speculative, would bie very liable to be affected in the extent of “its operations by any additional burden we throw upon it. I do not hold very strong views on the matter, but I make the distinction between the two things, and I think that we should be careful before imposing any additional burden on the mining industry.
.- I do not intend to extend the debate, but I think that the following particulars dealing with the methods of valuation carried out in New Zealand under a similar Act to our measure should help us in considering this question: -
Valuation of mineral bearing lands. - Laud containing or supposed to contain oil, coal, or other mineral deposits is valued as for the surface use only, and is of the same unimproved value as similar lami in the neighbourhood, always without any regard to speculative mineral value, until the oil or minerals are produced, when the profits (if any) will be duly valued.
In cases of coal-mines, valuers are required to value the surface of the land and the improvements effected both above and below the surface, and enter these values in their fieldbooks. The additional data relating to rent, royalty, output, yearly profits, and the separate interests of lessor and lessee, &c, are ascertained by the Valuer-General.
– Apparently the profits are taxed in New Zealand.
– It seems to me to be a tax on the profits made by mining companies. We could adopt the same system. No great injustice would be done by taxing mining leaseholds that are profitable ventures.
– They now pay a dividend duty to the States.
– If the contention of the honorable member for Flinders is correct, that the clause, as drafted by the Attorney-General, provides that a man who takes up a pastoral lease is to have the value of the lease calculated on the speculative mineral value, in my opinion it is absurd. I do not know how any valuator can arrive at the speculative value of any minerals that may be contained in a pastoral lease. But if the view taken by the honorable member for Flinders is correct, the clause should be amended.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to section 33 of the principal Act, which reads -
Provided, also, that when a trustee is also the beneficial owner of other land, he shall be separately assessed for that land, and for the land of which he is a trustee, unless for any reason he is liable to be jointly assessed independently of this section.
Death by accident or ill-fortune may suddenly place the widow and’ children of a taxpayer who has died intestate in a position of extreme disadvantage. Where there can be clearly no intention of defrauding the revenue, the section should be given a wider scope. Relief is granted where an estate is vested in a trustee in severalty, even though not actually parcelled out, but is still held in trust; but in more than one case the Court has determined, in the case of intestacy, that the best interests of the widow and children would be served by carrying on an estate as one estate, instead of realization. I do not propose to debate the main principle of leaseholds, except to say that the view which has appealed to me in connexion with the broader principle of taxation of State leaseholds is that the State has reserved certain lands to itself ; and the leaseholders of those lands have been tenants and caretakers, exercising police authority over those estates. In some instances the letting of these lands at low rentals is something in the nature df a reward for police services performed ; but arbitrary conditions in respect of vermin and preservation are very often imposed, which are a factor in determining the leasehold value. If the Federal authority comes in and taxes those interests, the people will not take the same responsibility on the land as caretakers as they have done previously.
.- Admittedly, the issues raised by this Bill are complex. On the other hand, it has been received in a most unusual spirit. I think it is the first measure of taxation in regard to which there has been such a happy disposition of members, so that we seem to have arrived at the golden age, in which party is forgotten, and each man speaks out of the conviction that is within him. I fear, however, that there are certain reservations in the minds of honorable members which leave us very much as we were in all essentials. I wish to reply very shortly to the honorable member for Wannon, who raised a most important question in regard to the position of beneficiaries in trust estates. I quite admit that there may be cases in which hardship will arise, or has arisen. Where a great estate has been cut up into such relatively small parts that the interest accruing to each beneficiary is in itself so small as to be fairly entitled to come under, the lowest rate of tax, it frequently happens that, owing to the manner of assessment, the estate is assessed at the higher rate. The question is a difficult one. We must not open the gates too widely; but when- the House meets again an amendment of the Land Tax Assessment Act will be introduced making certain necessary improvements in the machinery, and I promise the honorable member tit at in tha- interim th& matter he has raised will be carefully looked into. If possible, the Government will introduce such an amendment as he suggests, or, at any rate, the honorable member will be given an opportunity of introducing an amendment.
The honorable and learned member for Flinders has invited the attention of the Committee to certain highly technical and extremely interesting points. I can best serve the purposes of the Committee and of myself by stating at once that these matters will be most carefully looked into. But I am of opinion that the honorable gentleman’s contentions in regard to section 27, and the nonapplication of sub-section 3 of that section to lessees under the> Crown,, must fail. At the same time, the suggestion which he has been good enough to make to me, that wo should amend sub-section 3 by inserting after the words “ where the “ the words “ Crown or,” so as to remedy any ambiguity in the term of “ ownership,” which might exclude the Crown, will be looked into carefully, and, if the position be as “the honorable gentleman has stated, an amendment will be proposed in another place. In regard to the other point, _as to how far the definition of unimproved value covers, or ought to cover, mineral rights, I say no more than that the term “ unimproved value “ is one which is already well settled. It has been current in the economic world for half a century. If anything is well known and definite in meaning, what is connoted by the term “unimproved value” surely is.
That being so. I cannot for a moment accept his contention that there must be ambiguity as to the rights conferred by pastoral leases, and as to how the value of that form of lease is affected or can be affected by the reservation or granting of any mineral rights. Unimproved value has relation only to the user,, granted by the lease-, and in the case of a. pastoral lease it is not material to the unimproved value of that lease,, whether the Crown reserves the mineral rights or not. These things are, in any case, included in the value put upon the lease.
– You calculate some in one case and not in the other.
– I am coming mora particularly to the details in a moment. In my opinion, in each case the unimproved value must be based upon tha user which the individual has, and not upon what he could have if it were extended. It is perfectly well known that the right of the pastoral lessee to mineral, rights is limited in exactly the same way. Surely unimproved value is a term that can have relation, so far as this measureis concerned, only to the rights which the individual has in the land held by him. Applying that principle now to the incidence of taxation under the measure, I desire to deal with some objections directed against it. We have been told that this tax is undiluted confiscation, and the right honorable member for Swan said that the proposal to tax leases was the last straw. I say, in fairness to a Government who are confronted with a most difficult situation, that we have a right to hear what alternative our critics would suggest. If honorable members had been in our place they would have had to find money in some way. What way would that have been ? I should like to hear of a scheme of taxation to which no objection would be raised.
– We would not have raised the money in this way.
– It is easy to criticise a scheme of taxation, but I never yet heard of any scheme that was not greeted by a howl of denunciation from those whom it affected. The fact remains that this tax, as part of a scheme of taxation, is on the whole fair. It is not necessarily more permanent than any other scheme of taxation. It is open to review, and if, as we contend, the money proposed to be raised is necessary for our present purposes, honorable gentlemen ought at least to tell us how, had they been in our places, they would have raised the money, and, at the same time, trodden on nobody’s corns. But on this vital matter they are discreetly silent. I read with considerable interest a criticism in the Argus this morning, which seems to embody the very quintessence of, shall I say, the venom of honorable gentlemen’s criticism. That article attempts to’ show the -effect of this land taxation. It is full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations. If the views therein expressed are generally held, I am not at all astonished at the hostility displayed towards the measure. The article declares that a new method of assessment has been introduced. That is quite untrue. The method is unaltered. The rate of tax has been increased, but the method remains the same. This writer signs himself - I suppose on the lucus a non lucendo principle - “ John Jolly,” although I imagine him to be the most miserable man on God’s earth at the present time.
– It is not “ Jolly John “?
– Oh, no. The right honorable gentleman would be happy in hell. The writer says -
The new proposal provides that, commencing with a tax of Id. and l-15,000th part of Id., where the taxable value is £1, the rate shall increase “ uniformly with each increase of £1 sterling of the taxable value by l-15,000th part of Id.” This looks like the same thing expressed in other language, hut the difference is more than that between Tweedledum and Tweedledee - it is radical. In this new scheme, instead of each additional £1 alone canning an increased tax of l-15,000th part of Id., the presence of that additional £1 throws an additional l-15,000th part of Id. on each and every preceding £1.
That statement is absolutely incorrect, however simple and conclusive it may appear to the gentleman who penned it. It contains two quite inaccurate assertions. In the first place, the existing tax does not proceed by l-15,000ths of Id., but by l-30,000ths of Id., and the increments under the proposed tax will not affect each preceding £1.
It has been pointed out, however, that on £75,000 the increment of tax, calculated by the proposed formula, would be lid. upon the last pound of £75,000. This was not intended. I therefore propose to alter the formula, substituting l-18,750th of Id. for l-15,000th, which will make the increment of tax exactly 9d. in the £1 at that point.
Honorable members have spoken of the tax as confiscatory - a hard expression, which should not be used unless it can be based on solid fact. But no attempt has been made to support this charge by recourse to the facts. The actual effect of our proposal can be best seen in the examples set out in the following table : -
It is to be remembered of an estate whose total unimproved value, adding the exemption, would be £20,000, the improved value would be probably at least £40,000. The rate of tax upon such on estate would be 1 4-5th and the tax payable £112 10s. Therefore, on the great body of large land-owners, the tax will press very lightly, and will be much less than most of us pay to the municipal authorities. I should be very pleased if my municipal taxation were at the same rate.
– What about the drought ?
– The Commissioner’s powers being now insufficient to allow him to extend relief to cases of hardship, they are to be widened, and if he should fail to exercise them his conduct and that of the Government will be open tocriticism in this Chamber.
– Land-owners must apply to him in forma pauperis
– That is not so. I come now to the principles on which the taxation of leasehold is based, and in particular those which must guide the Commissioner in determining the value of mining leases. In my opinion, no difficulty should arise in regard to any, even the latter, the same rules applying to freeholds and leaseholds generally. As to mining leases, the honorable member for Parramatta has stated that output must be the main factor in determining the value of a mining lease. No doubt output is one factor, but not necessarily the main factor. The principles upon which the value of such as lease should be determined I conceive - and the Commissioner agrees with my view - to be as follows: Regard must be had first to the value of the mineral contained in the property, so far as that can be ascertained. Next we must consider the output of the mine and the amount of capital invested in it. The output will determine the period in which the ascertainable quantity of mineral in the land will become exhausted. Cost of production, including depreciation, interest, and so on, must then be borne in mind - that is, the cost of bringing the metal to the surface, wages, cost of superintendence, and other charges. The cost of production, allowance being made for the amount of capital invested, must be deducted from the value of the ascertained mineral average or actual output, the total ascertained or estimated value of the mineral contained in the lease being, of course, considered, and the rent and royalty, if any, paid by the lessee to the State under the lease. We thus get at what the lease is worth to the lessee. The taxable value of the leasehold estate is then easily determinable. Shortly put, the position may be thus stated : A lessee pays rent or royalty, or both. When royalty is paid in addition to rent, it must be added to and regarded as part of the rent. Deducting from the value of the lease as ascertained from the quantity of mineral contained therein and accessible, the capital necessary to develop the land, the interest upon it, the cost of production, and the rent paid to the Crown, we get at the unimproved value of the lease.
– What clause lays down this procedure?
– Paragraph a of subsection 3 of section 28 states in essentials the procedure that I have laid down. At any rate, these are fair and equitable principles upon which to base this system of leasehold taxation. I may add that it is proposed to amend the Bill by inserting a proviso excluding all leases held for a term not greater than one year. Thus yearly leases will be exempted.
– To what leases could that apply except annual leases?
– There are quite a number of occupation leases in Queensland.
– They have no value, because they continue only from day to day.
– Admittedly. To be taxable, it must be a lease for more than one year. For instance, a permissive occupancy would not be taxable. The clause, when amended, will read as follows: -
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 or a lease with a right of purchase or a lease of land to be used for pastoral, grazing or cultivation purposes or a homestead lease or a mining lease) shall not be liable to assessment or taxation in respect of the estate, and the owner of a leasehold estate under any such lease for a term not greater than one year certain shall not be so liable. . . .
– What about the proviso?
– That proviso will stand, and will be practically a direction to the Commissioner as to how he is to ascertain the value.
The honorable member for Flinders suggested an amendment so that the reservation of mineral rights to the Crown would apply to all leases, and not to mining leases alone. I shall look into that suggestion, and see if it can be adopted. I desire only to say, in conclusion, that the principles embodied in the principal Act have been in no way altered by this Bill. The rate of tax has been increased, but the method of taxation is unaltered. It does not, as alleged, go back over the whole of the estate any more than it did before. The effect is to increase the rate on each particular £1 of taxable value from £5,001 to £75,000, from which point a flat rate of 9d. in the £1 is being imposed, instead of 6d. in the £1 as before. I have already given concrete examples of the effect of this tax. As for the equity of taxing leaseholds, it is generally admitted that the principle of taxing the difference between the rent paid and the economic rent is a fair one. It is contended, however, that it will be difficult of application. Whilst I do not deny that, I hold that in practice many of these difficulties will disappear. Very many leases, for example, will in the very nature of things be outside the scope of this measure. In the first place, all leases the unimproved value of which is less than £5,000 will be outside the scope of the Bill. If we are to accept the statements of honorable members opposite as indicating the value of leases generally, very few will come within the scope of this measure. It follows, therefore, that, if their own arguments be sustained, this tax will affect very few. Those to whom it will apply will be very large lessees, who have a very valuable estate, which is, to all intents and purposes, a freehold. The difference between freehold and leasehold is largely a question of degree. Some leaseholds are as valuable as freeholds. And, certainly, there is no real and substantial difference so far as the right of the community to tax them is concerned. I trust that the Committee will agree to these proposals, and will allow me, in due course, to submit the necessary amendments.
– I have listened to the AttorneyGeneral’s very interesting speech, and desire now to put before the Committee one or two considerations. It appears to me that the honorable gentleman has indicated only some of the difficulties that are likely to crop up in the application of this principle under the machinery provided for by the Bill. The only comforting assurance we have had from him is that he proposes to review the entire machinery by the time that we meet again. The honorable gentleman says that the only difference being made is one of assessment; but the machinery which is provided for one form of taxation may be oppressive and quite inadequate when applied to another form.
– When applied to another kind of title.
– That is so. Machinery that might be well enough in its way when applied to freehold might be altogether inapplicable to the taxation of leaseholds.
One difficulty that I foresee is that the Government, all through, are setting up two valuators in respect of the same piece of land. If the Attorney-General has ever known two different authorities to agree upon the same tax, he has met with a great rarity. There begins the difficulty. It is a difficulty connected with the ego, with human nature, and which leads to all sorts of inequalities. Under our present method of taxing, valuing, and leasing, it is rarely that we find two men agreeing as to the valuation of a piece of land. In our case, however, we shall be “top dog.” What we say will be law.
– No. Lessees will have the same right of appeal.
– The honorable gentleman knows that this very right of appeal is one of the greatest grievances of the present day. There are men who do not know what they will ultimately have to pay, and who cannot get their appeals dealt with. They have paid, but the question of what they should properly pay has not been settled, and they cannot obtain a settlement.
– Then all I can say is that they should get a settlement.
– We should have truth and justice and perfection. The honorable gentleman himself should be perfect; but he is not. Our difficulties will only begin when we have two taxing authorities in respect of the same piece of land and the same lease.
My position in relation to the whole system of taxation now proposed may be briefly stated. I do not agree with my honorable friend that had we remained in power we should have had to propose some other form of taxation. My position is that this taxation is not necessary for the ordinary purposes of government - that after the Government had financed their war expenditure as they were proposing to finance it, and as we should have assisted them to do, this form of taxation for ordinary purposes of government would be totally unnecessary. That is the ground I take up. It is not, therefore, a matter of logic with me, although it is evidently with my friend, the honorable member for Balaclava. T listened with great interest to his observations, and had we been in a school of political economy I should have greatly admired them. He said, for instance, that, inasmuch as we were taxing freeholds up to 9d and lOd in the £1, therefore we must tax leaseholders to the same extent.
– That is logical.
– Assuming that the premises are right; but are they right? Let us test them. Let us reverse the position and test the whole. If you are taxing leaseholds on the full economic rent, therefore, to be logical, you must tax the land-owner to the full economic rent, less the amount that he has paid for his land.
– But we do not tax the leaseholder up to the full economic rent; we tax the difference between the true economic rent and what he is paying. We are not going to take the difference, but to tax the difference.
– The Government are going to tax the difference between what he is supposed to pay as representing the economic value and the full economic value as ascertained by them. They are going to take the difference between what the leaseholder is paying by way of rent and the full economic rent.
– No. We are taxing, but are not taking the difference. If the rent which a lessee ought to pav was ls., and the rent that he actually paid was 2d., we should tax him to the extent, perhaps, of 2d., so that he would still have 8d. of the difference for himself.
– There is no doubt that it is proposed to tax the man on the difference of lOd.
– Yes, we tax him on the lOd.
– And, therefore, as he is already taxed on the other 2d., the whole ls. is taxed in a graduated way.
– All right; but I do not agree with your view.
– There is no doubt that the whole shilling is laid under tribute between the Commonwealth and the States, and I want to know why land-owners are not treated in the same way.
– They are. Is there anything we propose to do to a leaseholder that we do not do to a land-owner?
– In the case of the land-owner we tax the unimproved value after deducting the improvements and there it ends with him ; but in the case of the leaseholder, who has already paid to the State what is considered to be a fair equivalent of the unimproved value, you present an assessment on which you make him pay.
– In the case of the private land-owner nobody had taxed him before. In the case of the leaseholder somebody had; and we may take it, for the sake of argument, that we take half of his taxable value, and leave half to the State
– In the case of the land-owner he has been taxed before..
But if the honorable member is right, then there is nothing left. However that may be, I see all sorts of troubles likely to arise from this taxation.
It is said that there is a basis for unimproved taxation that is generally accepted; but, as a fact, the whole question of valuation is so subject to all sorts of differentiation that it would be scarcely possible to get two leases taxed alike within a State. It all depends on the value placed on the land by the valuator, and his appraisement of the improvements and potentialities of the area.
– Is that not so in every case ?
– It is this differentiation in assessment that is causing half the land grievances to-day; and tothe differences that we find now between the valuation of different leases, will be> added a difference in the valuations of the same leases. Many of these variations in the valuations are due to local circumstances and conditions, and are made for good State reasons; and by. means of the proposed taxation we shall take from a man the reward which the State has given him for doing some service or other. It seems to me that, under this Bill, the Commonwealth will find itself in the Law Courts half the time; and by the time the litigation is finished there will not be much left to wring from the taxpayer.
Then the Attorney-General lays down a basis of assessment that I cannot accept. He says that in the case of pastoral land it is the right of user to the grazier that can be taken as a basis, and not what can be done with the land. If there is one thing more than another that is intended by land taxation to-day, it is securing the best possible use of land. The Attorney-General’s argument is that if a man in the city has land on which there is a one-story building, the basis of his taxation is to be the use he is making of the land, and not the use he could make of it. As a matter of fact, in the city, if a man has a building of one story alongside the land of another man on which there is a building of ten stories, the man with the one-story building has to pay just as much tax as the other, the idea being to force him to make the fullest possible use of the area. It is idle to suppose that if there be good minerals below, a pastoralist is. only to be taxed on the surface or grazing value; because it is the actual or full value of the land that is the basis. The effect oF t’ae Bill will be that where a State, for reasons of its own, is charging a man only the surface value of the land, our valuator will be able to go and fix what is the real value of the land above and below. We shall have two entirely different assessments on two entirely different bases; and I can foresee a merry time for the High Court. But really, it seems to me idle to discuss the details of taxation of this kind at the present time, because it is absolutely unnecessary. With prudent management of the ordinary public expenditure’ we should have been able to do quite well without this mean3 of raising revenue; and I tell the Treasurer that, when the year’s end comes, he will find that he has not been able to spend this money, by over £1,000,000. This Bill means an unnecessary, unjust, and unfair impost on a section of the community, who, in times like these above all, require sympathy and forbearance. Of course, we have been promised a new Assessment Bill when we meet again, to remedy all these machinery troubles which have already arisen. According to the Minister of Trade and Customs, the only deficiency in the Customs revenue this year will amount to £1,500,000; and yet it is proposed to aid revenue by over £4,000,000 in order to balance the ledger. To meet the deficiency there is already £1,200,000 surplus; and yet it is proposed, by the taxation measures now before Parliament, to raise £2,800,000 extra.
– I fail to see the force of the arguments of those who have preceded me, because the action of the Government at the present juncture is only that which justice and equity demand. Rightly or wrongly, we, two or three years ago, enacted a system for the progressive taxation of land in fee-simple, and it does not require a statesman or a logician to observe that, alongside the taxed owners of freeholds, there may be pastoral lessees who escape scot-free.
– Where are these pastoral leases?
– In South Australia and elsewhere there are, of course, large leases which, infested with wild dogs and other pests, are practically valueless for the purposes of taxation, but all pastoral leases are not of that character.
– And when the leaseholder kills the wild dogs he is taxed for doing so.
– Where are the leases referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs?
– The honorable member is aware that there are pastoral leases and freehold estates side by side.
– But these are not very large in settled countries.
– But they are large enough in many instances to justify the course now being taken by the Government. Why should a man, who is doing well out of a lease, escape taxation, while his neighbouring holder of a freehold has to pay up 1 Honorable members contend that we shall be taxing the value of leases with which it is the province of the States to deal, but the fact that every piece of legislation dealing with pastoral leases has to run the gantlet of Legislative Councils, which take every care to see that these leases are not rented too highly, is notorious.
– The Western Land Board fixes the rent of pastoral leases in New South Wales.
– The Board can only do so subject to an Act of Parliament. They are not superior to Parliament. When a drought or a partial drought affects any State, there is generally an agitation from leaseholders that they are paying too high a rental, and they must have a reduction. They generally get a reduction, and in many instances they are entitled to it, but they do remarkably well in good seasons. Of course I am not complaining about that. Although I am the representative of a big centre of population, I know something about the pastoral leases of South Australia, and I know that men who go out and work that portion of the Commonwealth are entitled to what they make.
– Suppose the State re-appraises these pastoral leases and increases the rentals; where will the Commonwealth come in ?
– The Commonwealth will get nothing. Why is the honorable member making a noise about that?
– Who will pay for the cost of the investigation necessary to prove that the Commonwealth will get nothing ?
– Honorable members may be sure that no Government will be prepared to chase up taxation it cannot get, and I have no doubt that the present Government will be careful and just. But freeholds should not be taxed if honorable members are not prepared to tax leaseholds. We should be fair all round.
– I did not gather from the AttorneyGeneral what he proposed to do in the matter of taxing mining leases. There are in Western Australia certain timber leases which run for periods of from fourteen years to twenty years, and pay a certain rental, but .are not re-appraised. These timber leases give great employment, encourage the settlement of country, and open up avenues of trade, and the State thinks that it gets its value out of them in that way. In the case of pastoral leases in Western Australia, many of them have fourteen years to run, and at the end of that period the leases are terminated subject to payment for improvements. The timber leases simply permit the lessees to take off the timber. There is no right to the soil. To propose to alter the Bill at the present stage would be of no avail, and would be inconvenient, but I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider what effect this legislation will have on timber leases, pastoral leases, and mining leases. To tax them heavily would be a serious matter, because in many instances the leaseholders do not pay dividends, and where they do they have to pay a State dividend tax. Of course I disapprove of the whole principle of taxing these leaseholds, but T. merely ask the Attorney-General now to make a note of this matter.
– I shall certainly note the matter. I can assure honorable members that this taxation will prove exceedingly complex and difficult. The Government have no intention of hampering lessees, retarding development, or preventing the carrying out of the policy of opening up lands and settling people on them now being pursued by the States. In three or four months we shall have our knowledge widened by the experience gained by the
Commissioner in attempting the valuation of leases, and whatever may be the result of that experience, honorable members will have the benefit of it. It will then be open for Parliament to consider how far certain classes of leases should be exempted altogether from the operation of this proposal.
– Will you consider coal leases at the same time?
– Yes. The Bill as it stands proposes certain amendments which are categorically set out in paragraphs a, b, and c. I propose to omit these paragraphs with a view to inserting the same amendment in a different form. Thus section 29 of the Act will be amended in a direct way instead of as set out in the Bill. I move the following amendment -
That all the words after the word “ amended,” line 2, be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words - “ by omitting all words after the words perpetual lease ‘ and inserting in their stead the words - or a lease with a right of purchase or a lease of land to bc used for pastoral, grazing, or cultivation purposes or a homestead lease or a mining lease, shall not be liable to assessment or taxation in respect of the estate, and the owner of a leasehold estate under any such laws - for a term not greater than one year certain shall not be so liable.
Provided that in the assessment of the unimproved value of a lease the value of any metals, or minerals, or other rights reserved to the Crown shall be excluded.’ “
.- The Attorney-General has said that when the House meets next year he will introduce another Assessment Bill. I ask him whether he will add certain words to the definition of “ absentee “ which will remit the tax on land purchased by people who are not able to come to Australia for twelve months or perhaps two years. These people should not be treated as absentees. They have bought the land here, and if they were actually present in the Commonwealth they would not have to pay any tax, because they would be covered by the exemption. The Treasurer, when speaking last night, regarded my suggestion favorably. We should not treat these would-be settlers in a hostile way by imposing this taxation upon their holdings. The revenue we gain by doing so is practically nothing, and the imposition of a tax in this way might cause us to lose settlers.
– I shall certainly do as the honorable member suggests.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I am very much opposed to this clause, because it is the crux of this new legislation for the taxation of leaseholds. I hope that, during the recess, the Government will give the matter further consideration, in order to see whether this tax, which comes at a most inopportune time, cannot be modified, if not entirely obviated. I shall vote against the clause.
Question - That the clause (2), as amended, stand part of the Bill - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
.- I move that the following new clause be added to the Bill - 2a. Sub-section (1) of section 44 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-12 is hereby amended by inserting after the words “ District Court of a State “ the words “ or in cases where the assessment made by the Commissioner is less than £10,000 a stipendiary or police or special magistrate.”
Section, proposed to be amended - 44 (1) Any taxpayer or person may within the prescribed time appeal to the High Court in its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court, or a County or a District Court of a State, or such other Court as is specified in that behalf by proclamation, against any assessment by the Commissioner with respect to his land, on the ground that he is not liable for the tax or any part thereof, or that the assessment is excessive. . . .
I desire to show the necessity for some immediate alteration in the machinery which the Act provides for hearing appeals. On pages 32 to 34 of the annual report of the Land Tax Commissioner, it is shown that there are 14,870 persons who pay this tax. Of that total, 11,530 assessments are below £10,000 in value. In other words, there are only 3,340 assessments above £10,000. On page 13, the Commissioner states that there were pending or unsettled at the time at which the report was made, 1,027 appeals, only four of which had been put down for hearing. That shows that the machinery provided for appeals has hopelessly broken down.
– Does the honorable member refer to appeals which are bond fide pending?
– The Commissioner gives in columns the number of appeals withdrawn, pending, settled, and set down for hearing, and of 1,027 pending, only four were set down for hearing. By reference to pages 33 and 34 of his report it will be seen that fully 80 per cent. of the assessments affect estates of an unimproved value of £10,000 or less, and the presumption, therefore, is that there is a similar percentage of the appeals pending, and in which a sum not exceeding £35 is involved. In many cases the amount involved would be only £3 or £4, or less. At the present time it is impossible for a taxpayer to get an appeal heard, however small the sum involved, without incurring great expense. In one instance which came under my notice, a land-holder whose tax came to £28 a year brought the matter before the Court, and, losing his case, had to pay £800 in costs. I think that in that case the Court arrived at its valuation in a manner which was wrong, but the result is that, although there are many taxpayers in the district who consider that they are suffering grievous injustice, not one of them dare appeal to the Court for a remedy. No doubt, when the Act was passed, it was thought that the appeals would concern only very large estates, and in the first place all appeals had to be made to the High Court. As a matter of fact, however, the sum involved in a great, many instances must be very small. Much larger sums are often involved in municipal and shire valuations, but appeals in regard to such valuations can be heard by police or stipendiary magistrates, and the same provision might well be extended to appeals in regard to. the Commonwealth land tax. When a man is suffering an injustice facilities should be provided for an appeal to a Court without incurring enormous expense. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept the amendment. I have not endeavoured to provide lor an altogether different kind of Court. The Commissioner of -Land Tax suggests arbitration, but where small sums are involved it would be cheaper to have appeals dealt with by police or stipendiary magistrates than to go to the cost of appointing arbitrators.
– Obviously, on the representations put forward by the honorable member for Richmond, the Act needs amendment, and, assuming the case to be as he. has said, I agree with him that greater facilities for appeal should be given to the taxpayers. That the sums involved are often small is not to tlie point; the taxpayers have a right to speedy justice. Still, I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment. I shall discuss the matter with the Land Tax Commissioner, and if I find that the facts are as the honorable member has represented them to be, or in any degree approaching it, an amendment of the Act will be proposed in due course to provide greater facilities for appeal. I do not know yet whether stipendiary or police magistrates should be appointed to hear appeals, but if, as the honorable member for Richmond has said, appeals from valuations under Local Government Acts are heard hy those magistrates, there seems no reason why appeals from valuations under this Act should not also go before them. When the House meets again, and the Amending Assessment Bill is introduced, a clause will be drafted to deal with this matter.
– Will the Bill be introduced this session 1
– Yes; when the House meets again. I am at one with the Committee in thinking that wider facilities for appeal should be given to taxpayers, but I do not pledge myself to the adoption of any particular Court for the hearing of them.
.- If the Attorney-General will say “cheaper and wider facilities “ I shall not press my amendment. He must admit that it is not right that an appeal regarding a tax of £28 should involve the taxpayer in costs amounting to £800. I ask the honorable gentleman to consider the advisability of cheapening appeals.
– The procedure ought to be speedy, and it ought to be cheap.
– Yes; now it is neither. The Commissioner himself complains of the great number of appeals pending with which it is impossible to deal. All honorable members know the trouble of getting appeals heard. I was successful in consequence of representations made to me by gentlemen in my electorate in getting a Court appointed, but they have been very sorry about it since. I hope that something will be done to cheapen and facilitate appeals, and as the Minister has promised to consider the possibility of that, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : -
Section 44 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1912 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : -
The owner of pastoral or agricultural lands may notify the Commissioner, within the time and manner provided for appeals that he desires the appeal shall be heard by arbitration, and thereupon the appeal shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the laws relating to arbitration of the State in which the laud is situated.
I am led to submit this proposal for the reason that in each of the several appeals that have been heard in the different States the learned Judges have practically expressed the one opinion that the present procedure is too costly and too tardy a way of securing satisfaction. I “would refer the Attorney-General to the last report issued by the Commissioner of Land Tax- that for 1912-13- where, at page 12, will be found the following extract from a judgment given by Mr. Justice Ferguson, in New South Wales, in the case of MacDonald v. The Deputy Federal Com mi si oner of Land Tax, New South Wales, as follows: -
Coming to the question of the value of the lands comprised in these areas, I amconfronted with the usual wide and irreconcilable divergences of opinion amongst the expert witnesses. I think it is very much to be regretted that the Court in cases of this kind has not the assistance of assessors or independent expert advice.In the absence of such assistance. I must decide asbest I can on the conflicting evidence forming my own judgment as to the justness of the inference which the several witnesses have drawn from the specific transactions upon which they base their opinions. I have not, of course, the advantage of their wide general knowledge of values, and of the many circumstances which cannot be given in evidence, but upon which knowledge of value is largely based.
Then Mr. McKay comments -
The dilemma in which the learned Judge found himself illustrates the position of every purely legal tribunal which, under the Commonwealth law. is compelled to adjudicate in eases of appeal. later in his report he says -
Experience has shown that the present methods of dealing with appeals against valuations are costly to litigants, attended with inordinate delay, and sometimes result in decisions of doubtful accuracy. Even when a case reaches the stage of hearing, the legal methods of procedure do not commend themselves as in anyway practical or reasonable.
He says further -
Representations have already been made to the Government in this connexion.
This report was published on the 26th June last. The Attorney-General and his Department have been approached by Mr. McKay, who has pointed out the injustice under which taxpayers are labouring; but from June last to the present time the Government, although they are now amending the principal Act, have taken no steps to remove this serious cause of complaint. In New South Wales alone. 718 land tax assessment objections are pending. I think I am well within the mark in saying that not half-a-dozen cases have been dealt with in that State. What chance, then, have land-owners who, in accordance with the demands made by the Commissioner, lodged their extra assessments, amounting, in some instances, to several hundreds of pounds, to secure the determination of their appeals ? Some of these cases have been pending eighteen months, and during all that time landowners have been deprived of the use of this money. No step has been taken by the Crown to set the appeals down for hearing. What possibility is there of their being dealt with, and justice obtained, within an early date? Honorable members opposite have always advocated the principle of conciliation and arbitration. Apart altogether from industrial arbitration, we have in the Telephones Lines Purchase Act provision for the settlement of claims according to the arbitration laws in force in the different States.
– That principle has not worked out very well.
– Surely my honorable friend is not going to say that, for that reason, conciliation and arbitration should go by the board. If the Labour party are consistent in their advocacy of the principle, then they must vote for my proposed new clause, which will enable the people concerned to secure justice in a speedier and cheaper way than is now possible. Instead of having the subjectmatter of their appeal inquired into by a Court of law sitting in a city where witnesses have to be brought from a considerable distance, at heavy expense, and where the Court sits for only five hours a day, we should have, under my proposal, a ready means of settlement. Mr. Justice Ferguson has said that he would like the assistance of assessors to guide him and to render it unnecessary for him to take a little off the Crown value and to slightly increase the valuation of the appellant with the object of arriving in that way at an assessment. What speedier way could be devised in dealing with an appeal than that proposed by me, that the Crown should appoint an arbitrator, and that another should be appointed by the appellant, both being practical men, and that they ‘should °meet on the ground, bring their expert knowledge to bear, and decide upon a proper assessment? It would be unnecessary for their expert knowledge to be conveyed, as at present, through a conduit pipe into the mind of a learned Judge in order that he might come to a decision. They would meet on the ground, and, having made an inspection, would say to the appellant, “ John Brown, your tax is so much and you must pay it.” If there was any difference of opinion between them they would call in a third party, and his decision would be final. Having had considerable experience of valuations and of resumption inquiries, I say, with- all respect to the honorable member for Richmond, that my proposal is better than that advocated by him, although I recognise ,lab in eases where the tax does not exceed £40 or £50 police magistrates should have power to deal with them, and that if it were adopted an end would be put to the heartburnings prevalent amongst land-owners to-day. I press the Attorney-General to say whether there is in this proposed new clause anything opposed to the principles which he advocates, or to the contention of the Commissioner. If the Government believe in the principle of conciliation and arbitration, then what better or speedier method can they suggest for dealing with the appeals which are now pending? I ask the Attorney-General to consider this proposal apart from party politics. If it be accepted, I am satisfied that many of the present-day troubles of the Land Tax Department will be cleared away, and that pending appeals will be settled at a very early date.
– The honorable member’ is in effect putting forward an alternative method to that which the honorable member for Richmond proposed to extend. Without committing myself in any way to the principle which the honorable member desires the Committee to adopt, I promise that I will look carefully into the matter, and see to what extent the principle of arbitration can be usefully adopted in this connexion. More than that I cannot say. At the present time I am not disposed, nor should I be asked, to accept the proposed new clause. It is our intention, as I have already said, to bring in a comprehensive Bill to remedy a great many weaknesses which experience has exposed in the law as it stands. This- matter will be looked at. The principle of arbitration is, of course, not new, and there is no material reason why it should not be applied to this particular case, if it is found, on examination, to be expeditious and cheap, and a substantial improvement on the existing method of determining appeals. I ask the honorable member not to press the matter at this stage.
– After the statement made by the Attorney-General. I do not think there is much to be gained by the honorable member pressing his amendment. Having regard to the consideration which the Attorney-General has promised to give to the whole subject, I should like tomake a suggestion. We all deplore the absolute impracticability of appeals in matters of this kind, and the immense expenditure incurred; but I cannot help thinking that both the proposals which have been made this afternoon would involve, if not quite as great expense, at least expense of a kind which ought not to occur. The greatest expense in connexion with any form of appeal, no matter what the tribunal may be - whether it be a High Court Justice, a District Court Judge, a police magistrate, or arbitrates - is that relating to the presentation of evidence, to the calling of witnesses, and the whole procedure of what is practically a judicial tribunal. I would suggest to the Attorney-General that, instead of the appointment of arbitrators, whose function it would be to hear evidence and to decide upon it, he should consider the practicability of enabling the taxpayer concerned 0 to appoint a valuer and the Crown to appoint another, subject to the condition that if they could not agree upon a valuation an umpire should be appointed. A great improvement would thus be effected in the present system. The essential difference is that under such a system we should get rid of the judicial procedure of calling witnesses, and so forth; and that we should have thrown upon these indepen- dent persons, as experts, the obligation of arriving at their own values. If they could not agree upon the valuation to be placed upon the property, it would be for the umpire to make a settlement. The only way in which it is possible to avoid the great expense attendant upon any formal appeal is to do away with what is called the judicial procedure of these appeals, and to try to substitute for it some mode by which the parties could have independent valuations made and be made to abide by the result.
.-I do not know whether the honorable member for New England realizes the fact that there is more than one system of arbitration in the several States. My own experience is that legal or judicial determinations by arbitration are not greatly less expensive, but very often more expensive, than judicial proceedings by way of appeal. I confess I have a good deal of sympathy with the view put by the honorable member for Richmond. My belief is that the solution of the difficulty will ultimately be found in the appointment of special magistrates.
– With all the expense of working up cases and summoning witnesses !
– There will certainly be expense in the way of witnesses, but those who are accustomed to the hearing of cases before police and special magistrates will admit that they are expert and expeditious, as well as conscientious. We shall not, however, be able to constantly unload, by means of our Federal legislation, work on the State stipendiary or special magistrates, who already have so much to do, as chairmen of Wages Boards, in hearing cases arising under the Federal Arbitration Act and the Lands Compensation Act that they cannot cope with their ordinary duties in petty sessions.
– The only really cheap way is that suggested by the honorable member for Flinders.
– I do not know whether that would prove the cheapest or the most expeditious, but it would certainly be better than the present plan. It is intolerable that these cases should be mounting up in the way they are, for it amounts almost to a scandal. I know from experience that the solution will not lie in appealing to the arbitration laws, as we have them here, nor in the creation of judicial arbitration tribunals which are so vastly different from our industrial arbitration tribunals in whichwe desire to get rid of all that circumlocution and delay incidental to ordinary judicial proceedings. I hope that the Attorney-General will sympathetically consider the suggestion of availing ourselves of the services of special magistrates.
. -There is much to be said for both the proposal of the honorable member for Richmond and that of the honorable member for New England. The former might be applied to cases with a limit of £10,000, and the other to cases over that amount. From my experience, living in the country, as I do, where we have appeals on shire rates and so forth, a great advantage is found in having the cases heard locally, where the witnesses are. There could be as many Courts as there are country towns and villages, and justice would be practically brought to the very doors of the appellants. I am very glad that the matter is being taken up as it is by honorable members on both sides. I have had private conversations with honorable members supporting the Government, and I know that they are quite in accord with both the proposals that have been put forward. I hope the Attorney-General will give the suggestions his sympathetic consideration.
– I shall give the matter my most careful consideration. I promise the Committee that I shall afford honorable members the opportunity of considering any proposal made, with the object of remedying the present condition of affairs, and, if they consider such proposal insufficient, to submit any amendments they believe will render it more effective.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . …. 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
Supply Bill (No. 4).
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.0 p.m.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Min
Th at this Bill he now read a second time.
This is merely the taxing Bill. An Assessment Bill to provide the machinery will follow its passage. We all admit that the proposal means the superimposition of a heavy tax on State taxation, but it is a class of taxation to which no. one can object, because one doubts whether the accumulation of large estates is beneficial to a country, or even to the people who inherit them.
– Then you seek to. have a lot of paupers in this country.
– Should not the. machinery Bill come first, seeing that the taxation is in pursuance of a clause of the Assessment Bill ?
– If Mr. Speaker would permit it, there would be a great advantage in taking the discussion upon the two Bills together.
– If honorable members wish to save time by discussing the two Bills together, I can have no objection ; but, at the same time, I point out that I shall not be able to prevent any honorable member from speaking on the second Bill if he desires to do so. Is it the desire of honorable members that the two Bills should be discussed together ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The detailed provisions of these Bills will be explained by the Attorney-General, who is better acquainted with the technicalities, but we might reasonably consider the point as to whether the estates of persons who are fighting the battles of this country should be taxed. I think that they should be exempted. They are taking exceptional risks on the battlefield, while we are stopping at home. Whereas those who remain at home should be called upon to bear the full tax, those who are at the front should, in my opinion, be exempted.
– In this measure there is no great principle such as that underlying land-values taxation. We are confronted with a tax that is admittedly imposed for revenue purposes. The basis of the taxation is not novel; it is a. form of taxation included in almost every modern fiscal system. All the States of the Commonwealth have adopted it, though such is the diversity among the systems adopted by them that any attempt to base the Commonwealth tax upon the foundation of the State systems is impossible. The tax has been so arranged that estates below £1,000 are exempt. It starts at 1 per cent. on estates over and above £1,000, and runs up to 15 per cent. on estates over £70,000. In many of the State systems the point at which the highest maximum of taxation levied upon probate, succession, or estate administration falls is £20,000. In New South Wales, according to information I have read, the rate goes up to 15 per cent.
– According to Knibbs, the rate in New South Wales goes up to 10 per cent.
– I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that the State legislation has been recently amended, and that the rate has been increased to 15 per cent. At any rate, the information in Knibbs is to the effect that the rate goes to 10 per cent. in New South Wales, and so far as I know, the rate does not go higher in any other State.
– There is 1 per cent. probate duty in Queensland, in addition to the succession duty.
– The point at which the rate reaches the maximum differs in almost every State. In Queensland the maximum is 10 per cent. on estates of £20,000 and upwards, but the duty is reduced to one-half when the successor is the wife or husband or the lineal issue of the precedecessor, and double when the successor is a stranger in blood to the settlor; that is to say, the rate is 20 per cent. on estates of £20,000 and upwards where the successor is a stranger in blood to the settlor, 5 per cent. where the wife or husband or the lineal issue inherits, and 10 per cent. when the successor is a brother or sister. In Victoria the maximum is reached at £20,000, when 10 per cent. is charged. Where the total value of the estate after the payment of all debts does not exceed £2,000, half rates are charged in the case of property left to the widow, children or grandchildren ; but where the estate is over £2,000 no special consideration is extended. There is no consideration for persons who are relatives except the widow or children or grandchildren.
– There are other considerations in Victoria.
– The honorable member is quite right. I now have the Act before me. Whereas for strangers the rate is 10 per cent. on all estates that exceed £20,000, for the widow and children it only reaches 10 per cent. when the estate exceeds £100,000. Section 16, paragraph e, of the Victorian amending Act says : -
Provided, however, that when the total value of such estate, after deducting therefrom all debts, where the widow and children, or widow or children, are the only persons entitled thereto, or when the total value of the shares of the widow and children, or widow or children, where they are not the only persons entitled thereto, does not exceed in and out of Victoria the sum of £2,000, the duty shall be calculated upon the property devised or bequeathed to such widow and children or widow or children, as to its rate at one-half only of the percentage fixed by Part II. of the First Schedule to the Administration and Probate Act 1903. In this section the word “children “ shall be construed to include grandchildren, and in all cases where any duty or fee is payable under the Administration and Probate Acts the same shall be calculated with reference to grandchildren accordingly.
I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by going over the whole of the conditions which apply to the probate and succession duties in the various States. I may briefly say, however, that they differ very widely, and that in the majority of cases, if not in all, a lower rate of duty is imposed in the case of widows and children, and also in some States in the case of brother and sister; whilst in most cases, if not all, a stranger in blood pays a higher rate than widows and children.
– Can you tell us what are the rates in Great Britain and Canada ?
– I have some figures here, but I do not know that I can regard them as reliable for our present purpose, because, in Great Britain, there are other estate duties besides probate and succession. Whitaker’s Almanack for 1914, at page 414, sets out that “ in the case of every person dying on or after 30th April, 1909, where the principal value of all property, real or personal, settled or not settled, passing on the death of such person exceeds £100,” the duty shall be 1 per cent. The rate then increases till at £100,000 it is 9 per cent., and at £1,000,000 15 per cent. As I have already remarked, however, there are . other duties payable upon estates of deceased persons which must be taken into consideration in this connexion. I desire to now deal with the proposals in the Bill, and to explain to the House the principles upon which it is based. In every Act to which I have had access there is a distinction drawn between strangers and relatives. No such distinction is drawn in this Bill. In Great Britain, there is apparently no such distinction drawn, but I hesitate to assert that there is not some qualifying legislation. However, the fact remains that in this Bill no distinction is drawn; all parties pay alike. I may frankly say that this measure is imposed for the purpose of raising revenue. In its present form, without consideration for the next of kin, it can hardly be regarded as a model measure of taxation. It is not contended that it is so, but it is contended that it is a measure which raises revenue with the least possible disturbance and hardship on those who are called upon to pay. There are the usual provisions for the lodging of objections and appeals, but the portion to which I particularly wish to direct the attention of honorable members is the manner in which the tax is assessed. It is set forth in clause 39 of the Bill that -
Subject to any different disposition made by a testator in his will, the duty payable in respect of an estate shall be apportioned among the persons beneficially entitled to the estate in the following manner: -
The duty shall in the first instance be apportioned among all the beneficiaries in proportion to the value of their interests; and
where there are any beneficiaries under the will each of whom takes only specific bequests or devises of a value not exceeding Two hundred pounds, the duty which under paragraph (a) of this section would be payable in respect of the interests of those beneficiaries shall be apportioned among all the beneficiaries in proportion to the value of their interests.
As, notwithstanding the admirably lucid yet simple phraseology in which the Parliamentary Draftsman has robed this section, the precise intention thereof may have eluded some honorable members accustomed to a more verbose style, I will endeavour to explain it. In doing so, I am animated by the pious hope that by the adoption of an alphabetical method we may arrive with some degree of order at a happy conclusion. I begin therefore with a : Paragraph a says -
The duty shall, in the first instance, be apportioned among all the beneficiaries in proportion to the value of their interests.
Let me explain what these clear and simple words mean. We will assume that an estate of £100,000 has been bequeathed as follows: - To A, B, C, D, E, and F, legacies of £150 each; to G a legacy of £50,000; and to H the residue of the estate - that is, £49,100. Under paragraph a the legatees who receive £150 each would pay at the rate of 15 per cent., as also would G, who received £50,000, and the residuary legatee, who received £49,100. But, in order to remedy this obvious and glaring injustice, it is proposed, in paragraph 6, that the amount of the tax payable under paragraph a by the beneficiaries whose interest does not exceed £200 shall be paid by all the beneficiaries equally. Reducing this to its lowest terms, I mean, of course, terms of general coherence, and applying it to the proposition I have put before the Committee, we find that the residuary legatee, who would be drawing £49,100, and the beneficiary who drew £50,000, and the six legatees who drew £150 each, would pay the legacy duty between them that otherwise would be paid by the whole, and they would pay that duty in proportion to the interest each enjoyed in the whole estate. So that if the duty payable by those six legatees collectively were £135, that duty would be paid in the proportion that £90,100 bears to £900, or, in other words, the six legatees whose aggregate interest in the estate was £900 would pay roughly one-hundredth of the duty paid by the two other legatees. Thus stated, the clause is seen to be lucidity in excelsis. It is at such moments as this that one recalls with intense satisfaction that cannot be put into words the epitaph which our dear old friend Euclid used to subscribe at the conclusion of those little problems by which he reduced us to chaos, quod erat demonstrandum. However, the proposition is perfectly simple, and is the basis of a very sound principle which will be easily applicable. If it were possible to introduce a diagram into the Hansard report, I would represent the corpus of an estate as an oblong, and divide off a small portion of it by means of a series of parallel lines.
This small portion would represent legacies of sums under £200. The duty would be spread over the whole estate, each beneficiary, including the legatees, paying in proportion to his interest in the estate.
This proposal finds its explanation and its justification in our present circumstances. I do not pretend that, in its present form, it ought to be permanent, though that is not a declaration that probate, estate, or succession duties will not form a permanent part of the Commonwealth scheme of taxation, I merely say that this scheme as it now stands does not take into consideration the differences between strangers and next of kin, and other differences which are generally taken into account in legislation of this kind. If, despite my exposition, doubts still remain in the minds of honorable members, I shall be glad to supplement it as the debate proceeds.
– In my judgment, this proposal is penal, and almost predatory. The tax is unnecessary, and to impose an unnecessary tax at a time like this is little short of criminal. It is proposed to impose death duties, State and Federal, amounting to 30 per cent., a land tax of 9d. in the £1, Tariff taxation, and income tax and super income taxes “in the States ; every penny that you can rake in you are trying to take from the pockets of the people. There is no need for this orgy of taxation.
– Notwithstanding it all, there will be a deficit at the end of the year.
– There will always be a deficit under the present Administration, because the theory of honorable members opposite is that the more you tax the people the richer you make them. With my honorable friends, taxation is a virtue.
– The taxation of the other fellow.
– Yes. But now more so, because we are taxing all round.
– It is all right so long as you admit that we are taxing all round.
– Apparently, so long as you tax all round, you think that it does not matter what you do. In my opinion, the less you tax the people the better for them. The more money you leave in their pockets, to be spent as they please, the better for them and for the development of the country.
– We are not justified in leaving the country’s debts to posterity to pay.
– It is a sound principle to pay your debts as you go on, and we can pay our debts without this taxation. The Government’s Estimates are inflated; their proposals for expenditure are unnecessarily high. They will not be able, though they may try their best, to spend the money for which they are asking, and at the end of the year there will be a big surplus. Therefore, there is no need for taxation such as that proposed. It shows how little accord there is between the National Government and the Governments of the States, when the Attorney-General could not say what are the death duties in the States.
– That is not quite accurate. I could not say exactly how they apply, but I could tell the House what the maximum is. “Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- The honorable member said 10 per cent., but in New South Wales it is 15 per cent.
– I said that it is 15 per cent., but that in Mr. Knibbs’ books it is put down at 10 per cent.
– I am not against taxation of this kind on principle. Death duties are fairly imposed on wealthy estates. But to impose a duty of 30 per cent., and thus to take away one-third of an estate at a time like this is unjust. It means that we are systematically penalizing success, which cannot be good for a young country like this. One could understand high death duties in an old land such as Great Britain, where there is a large accumulation of wealth. But, notwithstanding the millions of capital that have been accumulated there, the rate on estates over £100,000 is not more than 9 per cent. The rate proposed here is 30 per cent. on £75,000. Such an im position cannot possibly be called a tax; it is a penalty. You could, of course, impose a rate of 99 per cent. and call it a tax, but that would be a misnomer. If there were some overpowering urgency - if we were fighting a life and death struggle against some foe, and our resources were strained to the uttermost - this proposal might be justifiable, but under no other circumstances. A young country should be careful how it taxes the capital necessary for the development of its lands, and should not impose predatory and confiscatory taxation. Fair and reasonable taxation is justifiable. But the proposed taxation is not justifiable. The war is being specially provided for, and there is no need for special taxation to cover our ordinary outgoings. I, therefore, do not stop to inquire how the legatee, or any other beneficiary, may be affected ; those are all secondary considerations at present. This taxation is unnecessary, and therefore .it would be unjust to impose it.
– We should have appreciated the humorous exposition of the AttorneyGeneral were it not that the subjectmatter is so grave and serious. I do not think that honorable members opposite have thoughtfully considered this proposal. The introduction of a land tax aud an estate duty in conjunction amounts to a severe penalty, and is bound to have a disastrous effect on the introduction and investment of capital. Honorable members opposite do not realize the far-reaching nature of this legislation. Our desire should be to encourage the inflow of capital, and to give every reasonable inducement to its investment here. When measures of the kind before us are introduced, that timid bird is liable to be frightened away. I say this because my business associations cause me to realize how keenly proposals of this kind make themselves felt. The Attorney-General’s speech made it evident that the Government have not given any comprehensive consideration to this measure, because its predatory provisions completely outdistance anything and everything of the kind in the way of taxation within the British Empire. We find that the probate and estate taxation of the Mother Country is of a nominal character compared with the taxation for which this Bill provides, more especially when we take into consideration the fact that similar taxation exists in the several States. The rates of estate duty payable in the Mother Country are as follow: - Where the principal value of the estate exceeds fi 00, and does not exceed £500, 1 per cent. ; exceeding £500, and not exceeding £1,000, 2 per cent.; exceeding £1,000, and not exceed ing £5,000, 3 per cent. ; exceeding £5,000, and not exceeding £10,000, 4 per cent.; exceeding £10,000, and not exceeding £20,000, 5 per cent.; exceeding £20,000, and not exceeding £40,000, 6 per cent.; exceeding £40,000, ‘ and not exceeding £70,000, 7 per cent.; exceeding £70,000, and not exceeding £.100,000, 8 per cent. Compare these rates with the proposal now before us. In the case of an estate exceeding in value £70,000, this Bill provides that the duty payable to the Commonwealth alone shall be 15 per cent. In addition to that, there is 15 per cent, payable in New South Wales, 10 per cent, in Victoria, and 20 per cent, in Queensland and Western Australia. The position will be that in some of the States where the estate of a deceased person exceeds £70,000, there will be payable something like 35 per cent, of the amount left by the deceased. In other words, something like 35 per cent, of the estate will be appropriated by the Commonwealth and States concerned. In the Mother Country, instead of 35 per cent, being payable in such a case, there would be payable only 8 per cent. Let us go a little further. In the Mother Country, where the value of an estate exceeds £100,000, and does not exceed £150,000, the rate is 9 per cent.; where it exceeds £.150,000, and does not exceed £200,000, the rate is 10 per cent.; exceeding £200,000, and not exceeding £400,000, 11 per cent.; exceeding £400,000, and not exceeding £600,000, 12 per cent.; exceeding £600,000, and not exceeding £800,000, 13 per cent. ; exceeding £800,000, and not exceeding £1,000,000, 14 per cent. Where the value exceeds £1,000,000, the rate is* 15 per cent. Where the value exceeds £70,000 in the Commonwealth, the same rate of duty, namely, 15 per cent., is payable to the Commonwealth Government over and above the duty payable to the several States in which the estate happens to be. I ask my honorable friends opposite to seriously consider the confiscatory character of the proposals now before the House. I do not for one moment suggest that they deliberately intend that they should be so ; but they should realize that they cannot introduce legislation of this character without doing infinite injury to the general welfare of the community. In the Mother Country the death duties are seven in number, namely, the estate duty, the settlement estate duty, the legacy duty, the succession duty, the probate duty, the account duty, and the temporary estate duty. All these are in force ; but, apart from special circumstances, the general duty payable on an estate is that which I have already quoted. Where certain settlements have occurred there are payable certain amounts in respect of the property affected by those settlements, and where legacies are specially devised, there is a certain amount payable by the legatee. In other cases duties of an alternative character are imposed. But, speaking broadly and generally, the corresponding death duties payable in the Mother Country would be exactly the duties I have quoted. There is one point that I would specially emphasize. In nearly all the States, in the case of widows, children, and grandchildren, and, in some of the States, in respect of the brothers and sisters of the deceased person, half duty only is payable. Here no such concession is allowed. That is most unjust. Speaking from experience as a practising lawyer - and I am sure that the honorable member for Gippsland and a number of other lawyers in the House will bear me out - even the present probate duties result in grave and . serious hardship in the case of a mortgaged property. Where the property is mortgaged there is often the utmost difficulty in borrowing the probate duty that is payable. Where a mortgage exists, additional money can be raised in many cases only by a second mortgage; and to obtain a second mortgage with a comparatively limited margin means the payment of very heavy rates. One cannot borrow with any degree of advantage, and in many instances it means that valuable property has to be sacrificed. That is the every-day experience of every practising lawyer, and I submit that it cannot be disregarded. With the probate duties of the State superadded to these, nothing short of confiscation can result.
– The position will be accentuated during the present crisis.
– Undoubtedly. The Government have succeeded in passing their land tax and other financial measures, and I would earnestly suggest to them that, in view of the unconsidered character of the present measure, they should either withdraw it, or consent to a very substantial modification. If they persist in it, they will do a class of the community grave and serious injury. I ask them to consider this matter from the practical stand-point to which I have referred. I have demonstrated that these duties, payable to the Commonwealth, to say nothing of those payable to the States, are largely in excess of those payable elsewhere. That, I submit, is a sufficient reason for a very substantial modification. In Victoria, the duty payable on an estate of die value of £70,000 is only 10 per cent, at the present time; but we have received an intimation from the State Government that it is proposed to increase it, and the probabilities are that’ it will be raised to 12 per cent., or 15 per cent., so that it will correspond- with the rates in force in other States. Probate duties are essentially State imposts, and we are depriving the States of an important source of revenue. By this Bill we are adding seriously to the financial difficulties of the States. It is true that some little concession is granted by clause 39, so lucidly explained by the AttorneyGeneral, where proportionate rates are payable; but that is a mere passing circumstance, unworthy of consideration, having regard to the larger issues which are involved. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will see their way to consider this measure in the light of the facts and circumstances that have been brought before them. I urge this from the stand-point of the general welfare of the community, and if the Government will not give a broader consideration to the matter, I trust that, at least so far as widows and children are concerned, they will grant the same concession as is extended to them by the .”States.
.- I regard this legislation more from the point of view of the Commonwealth than from that of the taxpayer. Undoubtedly a probate duty is not felt in the same way’ as another tax is felt by those who pay it; but by reason of its very nature, it ought to be imposed with discretion. Those who pay a probate duty are in a position to invest their money where they will, and to. shift themselves and their money where they please. The persons from whom we are likely to collect probate duty of any real value are those who, in the evening of their days, in order to protect their children from a confiscatory tax, must shift themselves and their interests, lock, stock, and barrel, outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
– Oh !
– My honorable friend laughs. Does he not know of people who have left the country?
– He laughs because he knows something of other countries.
– Is a man going to shift his property because of this?
– Certainly he might.
– He will pick up his mine and carry it away with him!
– Not the mine, but the title. Our honorable friends opposite picture rich men travelling about loaded with gold mines and coal mines, which, by means of their unaided Atlas-like activities, they succeed in carrying about with them. The title-deeds ofwealth, however, can be shifted. Almost every form of wealth is easily negotiable. In estates where heavy probate duties are payable they are almost liquid, as a rule, in their nature, and could be very easily shifted.
– But where does the man who buys them come in ?
– If you sell a large parcel of shares as a rule they are bought, not by one person, but by hundreds. And herein lies the great danger that the Government run in connexion with a confiscatory tax of this character. They seem to be in. danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.We cannot put a 30 per cent. tax upon a man’s property, payable at his death, without that man, in certain circumstances, wondering whether, perhaps, he is not doing an injustice to his children by failing to shift to some other part of the British Dominions. That is the position we have to face, and from that point of view I face it. It is a pity the Commonwealth has invaded this particular sphereof taxation, for obviously we cannot equalize things, taking into consideration the various charges already imposed by the States.
– We are not imposing any income tax.
– We have doublebanked the land taxes, and are doublebanking the probate duties; and the honorable member takes credit to himself because the public are not robbed in some other way. There is only one sane way of imposing taxation, and that is to have one taxing authority. Let us find some means of taxation apart from that already taken in hand by the States. The Attorney-General has said this is the most customary form of taxation throughout the world, and that we can hardly imagine a State without probate duties. No doubt this is a very proper tax; but I challenge the Attorney-General to point to a single State where we have the Crown calling for two sets of probate duties from the same people.
– There are seven sets of taxes, according to the honorable member for Kooyong.
– At present we are discussing the probate duties. I have no doubt that in the real Parliament of the country upstairs, the honorable member was very loud in his denunciation of the proposal before us, but in the Chamber here he can merely be flippant. I hope that by the time the Attorney-General has introduced the Bill, whichhe himself has admitted should be infinitely more equitable than the present one inits incidence, honorable members opposite will have realized that double-banking is very dangerous in the public interests, and that we are likely to lose revenue by being too grasping. It is a tax which, I suppose, nobody particularly minds paying, especially if he has come into a windfall; but I dare say that the representatives of those estates which are going to be called upon to pay are even now worrying about the matter, and wondering whether it is fair that beneficiaries of blood should be so levied on in this section of the King’s Dominions.
– I should like to clear myself of the charge made against me by the honorable member for Wentworth, who asserted that 1 opposed my party upstairs, and in the chamber propose to give a silent vote. That is not the case, because, if there is a form of taxation in which I believe, it is that proposed by the Bill. The inherited wealth of the world is, in my opinion, responsible for more economic injustice than any other form of wealth. The idleness generated by wealth is brought about more in this way than any other, because the man who accumulates wealth is generally a useful citizen who continues to be active and doing something of benefit while he lives. I am quite alive to the fact that the leisured classes have done much for the world, that if in the past wealth had not been accumulated and enabled some people to lead leisured lives the world would not have advanced as it has. But we are living in different times to-day; and opportunity is all that most people require, and inherited wealth tends to deny this. The accumulations of wealth, handed down from generation to generation, create an idle class, who are more pernicious in their influence on society than are the idle poor. Any form of idleness is bad, whether it be the idle poor, the idle rich, or idle land; but of the three, the idle rich is the most inimical to society. I am quite prepared to concede that this does not apply all round, but in the main it does apply. I have lived long enough to come to a definite conclusion in regard to this matter; and we are only doing our duty to posterity by taking this effective step against the transmission of accumulated wealth. It is a strong man who can survive a great legacy; and I say that advisedly. In other parts’ of the world accumulated wealth may have had a beneficial effect, particularly, I think I am safe in saying, so far as the British aristocracy are concerned in the past. They have developed very highly cultured scions of leading families, who have been of some benefit to the world; but, all the same, the aristocracy of England can, I suppose, afford pathetic instances of that evil influence of easily-gotten wealth. For that reason, if for no other, I support the measure; but, at the same time, the exigencies in Australia to-day warrant us in looking for revenue wherever wealth is accumulated. I do not accept the dictum of the Leader of the Opposition as to inflated Estimates, and the probability of a surplus, because, from what I can see, I should say that we shall have to exploit our resources still further and impose still more exactions in order to meet the great strain that is being made on our civilization by the war.
– Blessings yet to come !
– I do not regard such taxation as a blessing; but it all depends on the financial position of the individual. Probably the honorable member for Echuca is in a position to stand further exactions, while most of us are not, though I venture to say we are willing to play our part. We are quite justified, apart from the economic aspect of the question, in looking to accumulated wealth for assistance in this hour of trial.
.- Most honorable members will agree that legislation of this sort should not be introduced unless under extraordinary and very urgent conditions. It is an extraordinary procedure for the Commonwealth to enter upon an avenue of taxation which has already been exhaustively followed by the States. There ought not to be any desire to hamper or injure any section of the community, and, therefore, when introducing legislation of this kind, it is necessary to show, if we are anxious to act fairly and equitably, that it is both necessary and urgent. I regard this and the land tax proposals as panic legislation, which should be avoided if possible. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if this were a time of great difficulty and stress, with the enemy at our gates, and we had exhausted all ordinary means, measures of this kind might be justifiable. This Bill will place an additional tax on people who are sufficiently taxed already, and the Government have never shown in any way that it is either necessary or urgent. In fact, I say deliberately that they have not sought to do so; and the AttorneyGeneral clearly showed that he knows nothing about the effect of this taxation - that he does not even know the burden already borne in this regard by the people in the various States. Had we been in any real financial difficulty, would the Government, in the Budget, have proposed to spend out of the current revenue of the country £2,600,000 more than was spent last year? Would the Government have proposed to spend out of revenue £1,000,000 more than last year on public works? Even had we been in financial difficulty there would be no need to spend this money out of revenue. In addition to the falling off in trade, we have the distress that the drought is causing throughout the country; and it would have been very easy to raise the required money by means of a loan, thus avoiding, as far as possible, any additional taxation. There is no justification for this extra taxation. When speaking to the Land Tax Bill, I said all that I wished to say upon this matter, and, therefore, I merely refer to it now ; but I deliberately repeat that the Commonwealth could easily have financed this year without either of these drastic taxes, and assuredly without the one now before us. We have no right at the present time to impose the extra burdens proposed in this Bill.
– The right honorablegentleman would have financed the country on borrowed money.
– I do not think that the honorable member need talk about borrowed money. The Treasurer is borrowing £18,000,000. His party are the spendthrifts of Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman would have shut down all the public works, and starved the people.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish you would keep this ignoramus in order.
– The honorable member must withdraw that word.
– I withdraw it : but the foolish interjections of the honorable member are abominable. We could easily have financed this year without the drastic impositions of the duties proposed by this Government. Under this legislation, the probate tax upon the citizens of Queensland will be 30 per cent. in the case of a large estate. There is no other name for the Bill ; it is a Bill to confiscate these properties and ruin the people who own them. Not long ago a man with an immense estate died, but there was the greatest difficulty in getting the money to pay the 10 per cent. probate duty. It was only done after much negotiation and trouble. To pay 30 per cent. on an estate will unfairly injure the beneficiaries. I wish to make my remarks as short as possible, but I again wish to repeat the statement, with any authority that I can give it, that it would have been very easy to have financed this year without either of these drastic impositions. Had the late Government remained in office, it would have been done.
– I am aware that the Government are desirous of getting the Bill through, and I shall curtail my remarks. I would not have spoken but for the bitter, cruel language of the right honorable gentleman who is of the opinion that he possesses all the brains in this Parliament, and does not hesitate to call any one who differs from him an ignoramus. I am sufficiently well acquainted with his methods of taxation to realize that the time has arrived when things should be changed. The right honorable gentle man admits that we need more revenue, owing to the terrible war. According to his remarks, he would not have hesitated at taxing tea, and kerosene, and commodities used by the workers, but he complains when we attempt to tax the wealth amassed by the man who has gone to the golden streets, to which he has bought his way, and left to some one who has never worked and who has not produced any wealth, something to whichhe is not entitled. For the first time in the history of the country the party representing the poor, who have always paid in the past - the workers who have always produced the wealth for the other man - are in a position to put laws on the statutebook, and they are now taxing the people who, in the past, had the making of the laws, and evaded the payment of their just dues to the country, and who now refuse to pay those just dues towards governing the country that has treated them so well. If an enemy came to Australia, who would be the first to suffer? Those with title deeds in safe deposits, or in the offices of their lawyers - the men of wealth. Knibbs estimates that in 1911 there were in the Commonwealth 17,794 persons with incomes of over £1,000 a year, and having a total annual income of £78,115,646. Yet these are the people who refuse to give a little bit of their wealth to the country. I think it is time that the workers recognised these facts, and time that honorable members stopped their outcry about taxing the “ poor “ people who will be called upon to pay this tax. I advise honorable members opposite to read the work of Townsend Martin, a millionaire banker of America, entitled “ The Passing of the Idle Rich,” in which he says that America is in a deplorable state owing to the idle, rich young men having so much wealth. What occurred in my own presence recently? A young man rolled into a railway carriage, and a friend greeted him, “ Halloa, Jack; I thought you were in Western Australia “; andthe young man replied, “ So I am when I am at home; but did you not hear that the old man had Peggedout? Iam here to get a little of the boodle.” A nice thing for the old man who had accumulated the money to leave to this young fellow ! We have other idle people in Australia, but they are idle because they cannot get work, and they cannot buy the necessaries of life for their wives and families. Yet when we need revenue, honorable members come forward with the cry about the poor “ who will have to pav these taxes, and they say that we do not require the money. We need every shilling of it. I hope that every shilling provided on the Estimates will be spent, and that we shall not have sums of money voted, and Ministers afterwards applying the pruning knife and coming down to the House with a heap of unexpended balances, showing them as a surplus. We know that the late Govenrment sent out an intimation to officers to curtail expenditure all along the line when that expenditure was absolutely necessary for the development of the country. There was one sum of £140,000 placed on the Estimates that should have- been spent, but was not spent. Owing to the war, I am unable to refer to it.
– Order !
– I was induced to speak to the question by the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan to the effect that we did not need this taxation. I support the measure. I am glad that it is about to be placed on the statutebook.” Ninety per cent, of the people, the wealth-producers of the Commonwealth, the workers, will realize that they have at last representing them in the National Parliament a party which will tax the gentlemen who have not hitherto paid taxes as they should have done. Not having been accustomed to pay taxes, they do not like to have to pay them now, but they must get used to paying them; and if the Labour party are long enough in office they will get so accustomed to it that in the future we shall not hear such an outcry as we have had from the Opposition benches to-day.
– The reflection uttered by the honorable member upon the honorable member for Swan was absolutely unjustifiable. The honorable member for Swan need only point to his record in Western Australia with regard to the levying of duties generally to show that his service to the country has been good and faithful, and that his taxation was based as far as possible on the principle of ability to pay. There are one or two matters upon which I should like to have information. Beyond a statement from the Treasurer when he was introducing - this taxation that it would bring in £1,000,000, we have not been told what the tax is to yield.
– The estimate is £1,000,000 for twelve months.
– But the Budget proposes to collect £1,000,000 in six months.
– The computation has been based on £1,000,000 a year.
– The honorable member will find that the revenue will exceed £1,000,000 in the twelve months. In 1912-13, the taxes of the different States yielded £1,050,019. Assuming that we are to derive £1,000,000 only from this source, the effect as well as the intention of the imposition is to double the rate of taxation all through Australia. I venture to say that the Attorney-General cannot show in any probate or succession legislation in any part of the world a provision similar to clause 53, which provides -
Any person who, by any wilful act, default, or neglect, or by any fraud, art, or contrivance whatever, evades or attempts to evade assessment or duty, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty: Five hundred pounds and treble the amount of the duty, payment whereof he has evaded or attempted to evade: or forfeiture of the estate, or any part thereof, in respect of which the offence was committed.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– Are you going to come down ?
– Yes; do not shoot. I noticed that clause as soon as my attention was drawn to the matter.
– I only desire to impress upon the Attorney-General the practical difficulties to be faced by the persons who will be charged with the realization of tha ‘tax which will be imposed by. the Commonwealth and the States. I do not know whether the Treasurer has looked at the operation of the Bill from the point of view of persons administering the estates and having to raise these duties. This is a succession duty on all classes of property, real estate in Australia and personal estate wherever situated, whether in Australia or out of it. Even if a man’s personal property is outside of Australia, it is added to his estate, and he has to pay duty on the whole.
– If he made his wealth in Australia, why should he not pay ?
– But suppose he did not make the whole of it in Australia?
– Then all the better for the Government.
– But in all probability the estate will be paying duty on the personal property in some other country. It will be found that in some instances the only property a man has left is a business which is a going concern, but which after this tax is imposed may be a “gone” concern. It may be property that is vested and bringing in rent; probably the estate consists of one piece of property like some of the city estates. The difficulty will be that immediately upon death these enormous duties will have to be raised, and some of the property of these estates, whatever they may be, will have to be converted at once into money in order to meet the obligations under this tax. I think that the AttorneyGeneral will find that the drastic provisions of the measure will cause considerable hardship to legatees. One clause which is satisfactory is that allowing an extended time m which people may raise the requisite money to pay the duty. But I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider the advisability of even extending that time so as not to allow any hardship to arise from compelling any estate to raise money, probably at an inopportune time, to pay the tax. Suppose during the next twelve months a person dies, and any of the assets of the estate have to be realized ; to compel their realization in unfavorable markets will mean” a great hardship to those who inherit the succession. If the Attorney-General can extend the time allowed in the Bill for making payment of the tax he will be “doing a benefit to the people affected, and at the same time will be conserving all the revenue he hopes to raise by this means. Seeing that the tax is so exceedingly high, I ask the Attorney-General to look with a favorable eye on any suggestions that may be made in Committee. In the State of Queensland there is not only a succession duty, but a probate duty as well. In addition to the succession duties, 1 per cent, probate duty is payable on estates having a net value of £300.
– Some of them have to pay 21 per cent, succession duty.
– And 1 per cent, in probate duty as well. In Queensland an estate will have to pay 21 per cent, to the State, and 15 per cent, to the Commonwealth, which makes a total of 36 per cent. Suppose an estate of £100,000 is invested and is bringing in income; death takes place, and the executors suddenly find themselves in the position of having to raise cash to pay 36 per cent, on £100,000, which will be an exceedingly difficult problem for them to face, judging by cases that have been brought under my notice. That aspect of this taxation was brought to my attention by a person with considerable interests, who pointed out how harshly this legislation will operate if prompt payment to the Treasury is required. Another feature in this assessment which differs from that in the States is this: Suppose a man like the late” Sir Francis Ormond or some other wealthy man dies and leaves large amounts to religion and charity-
– I propose to move an amendment to exempt all bequests for charitable and religious purposes.
– I am glad the AttorneyGeneral proposes to do that.
.- Believing as I do that extra taxation is absolutely necessary at this period, I shall support the second reading of this Bill. We must remember that all the Governments of Australia, apparently with the approval of the people, have decided that they will not curtail public works during the present year, but will keep tilings going as well as they possibly can, in order to prevent the unemployment problem being intensified. In view of that’ fact, it seems absolutely necessary that extra taxation shall be imposed. If I believed that further taxation was not required, I would oppose this, or any other, taxation scheme. But, believing the additional revenue to be required, I see no objection to the principle involved in this Bill. It applies to all kinds of property alike, and it begins with a very low exemption of £1,000. Undoubtedly, when added to t’ae State probate duties, it will be a very heavy tax, but we have to realize that these are exceptional times, and money has to be obtained somehow for public purposes. At all events, this form of taxation has the advantage that it will not be taking away from a person that which he possesses, but will be simply deducting something from an estate before the llegatee receives his share. One thing I should like to impress on the
Attorney-General is that I see no reason why we should depart from the principle laid down in all the State Acts, namely, the making of a reduction in the duty payable on estates left to widows and children. Property that passes from a man to his widow and children stands in a different position from that which passes from him to a stranger. That has been recognised in all probate taxation measures up to the present time, and this Parliament ought to recognise it also. In the original Victorian Act a reduction to the extent of one-half was made in favour of the widow and children, but in the Act of 1903, No. 1815, which was introduced, I think, by the honorable member for Flinders, the difference between the duty payable by the stranger and the widow and children was reduced.
– In Queensland, where that principle is adopted, the rate payable by the stranger is double that payable by the widow and children.
– That was the case in Victoria up till the time when the amending Act I have spoken of was passed. If a reduction to onehalf is considered too great, I think we should at least allow the widow arid children to escape with a payment of twothirds of the tax collected from the stranger. We all recognise the duty a man owes to his widow and children, and we realize that they have a prior claim on his wealth to that which a stranger has. The honorable member for Darling Downs dealt with the question of forfeiture. I think this Bill seems to have been based On the Land Tax Act rather than on an ordinary probate machinery Act, and some of the penalties are too severe. There is one provision which, I think, will require to be altered. That is clause 24, which gives the Commissioner power to, within three years after the last payment on account of duty, make alterations in or additions to the assessment. I think he should be required to make his assessment as quickly as possible, because that provision will make the executor afraid to distribute. I admit that subclause 3 contains a provision that the administrator shall only be liable for an increased payment of duty to the extent of the property then under his control, unless, owing to fraud or negligence on his part, the proper amount of duty was not paid in the first instance. The administrator may fear that his action would be construed into negligence, and hang on to the estate until the three years had expired. I think that provision will require to be altered. However) taking this Act as a whole, and having regard to the necessities of the time, I think we can cordially support it. At the same time, I shall vote in Committee in favour of a proposal to allow estates passing” to widows and children to escape with the payment of a lower duty than that paid on estates passing to strangers.
– I cordially indorse the last remarks uttered by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to an indulgence to widows and children. In the legislation of all countries they have been regarded as standing in quite a different position from those to whom property comes more or less as a sort of windfall, and who have no claims of relationship or rational expectations which are defeated by a drastic tax of this nature. But I cannot follow the honorable member in indorsing- this tax as one called forth by the extraordinary exigencies of the present moment. This is not a war tax. In the first place, I do not suppose that any Government would be so bereft of reason as to impose a tax for the purpose of meeting the obligations of a sudden calamity that has fallen on the whole of the people, a large portion of the burden of which tax would fall on the estates of the few rich people who happened to die during that particular period. Such a thing as that would not recommend itself to any Government. The Government have themselves admitted that this is not a war tax. The Leader of the Opposition attempted, to define it as a war tax by limiting it to the duration of the war, but the Government opposed that proposal, and by so doing they deprived themselves of the argument which followed from the extraordinary circumstances in which we are now placed. The tax must be regarded, as the Government ask us to regard it, as one plank in the Labour party’s general platform.
– The Attorney-General said he would not regard this as a permanent tax.
– I think the Attorney-General has left us in such a position that we cau only regard the tax as a fulfilment of the Labour party’s general platform. Indeed, a Commissioner is appointed for a term of seven years. With a good deal of tlie argument in support of succession and estate duties I am, and always have been, in accord. I agree that even a fairly heavy burden upon estates passing at death is, perhaps, less keenly felt and less ‘injurious in incidence than any other tax. As was mentioned by the honorable member for Gippsland, when I was faced with a great financial difficulty in Victoria some years ago, I was responsible for the introduction of what was one of the heaviest probate and succession duties in the British Empire.
– Was that a temporary tax ?
– No. The tax still remains in force; but its extreme limit of 10 per cent, on estates of £100,000 is low compared with the proposal to place a duty of 15 per cent, on estates of £70,000. I am afraid that this estate duty, together with the land tax, is the outcome of a false doctrine, which honorable members opposite have been diligently inculcating into their political supporters, namely, that accumulations of capital are injurious to the working people, that capital is the enemy of the worker. Capital has been figured as a kind of vampire, which sucks from the working man the wealth that his labour’ creates. We hear statements to that effect in the political speeches which honorable members make from the platform, and read them in the political prints of the Labour party.
– Capital is not necessarily the enemy of the worker.
– Honorable members are like cooing doves when dealing with these subjects here, but outside there is hardly any statement of this doctrine which is too violent for their acceptance. We hear perpetually from the platform the appeal of the Labour party to the electors to fight against capital, which is sucking their blood. A falser doctrine never emanated from the human brain.
– Who preaches that?
– The honorable member and his confreres. On every platform of the party that doctrine is preached, and honorable members win thousands of votes by promulgating it.
But it is a damning and destructive doctrine, which will react with tremendousforce against the very class that supports the party in power.
– I should like to know what honorable member has used the arguments referred to t
– The Postmaster-General, for one. He has stated that the capitalistic system must be destroyed.
– I do not. say these things to irritate honorable members. I am not using’ words of abuse. I am merely stating what we all know to be true. The theory which counts for a vast deal of the support which honorable members opposite get in the country is that the labouring man has’ to fight against the capitalist. Instead of the relation between them being that of seller and buyer, of dealer and customer, as it really is, he is told that no accumulation of wealth of any considerable magnitude can come about without the robbery of the poor.
– Different capitalists have different methods of accumulating.
– We all admit that capital is acquired in some cases by methods which both law and morality condemn. Capital acquired by pure speculation is acquired merely, by gambling, and capital acquired by methods not unknown to some of us is little different from the proceeds of a robbery. But what I assert, and what honorable members opposite deny, is that the accumulation of capital which takes place in the ordinary course of the growth and development of the country is necessary to enable the ordinary working man to obtain a fair return for his labour.
– Consider the capita] needed for the war in which the Empire is now engaged !
– In the every-day concerns of life capital is required. But the idea underlying this Bill and the Land Tax Bill is that the more you can take from the capitalist, the more you can give to the working man. ‘
– I think the honorable member is overstating the case.
– I do not think so.
– We do not object to capital.
– The honorable member objects to the capitalist. I respect a candid and .honest opinion, even though I may not agree with it. We all know that the honorable member for Dalley is a believer in the doctrine of Syndicalism. He has admitted that on more than one occasion. He thinks that the accumulation of capital in the hands of private persons is contrary to the theory which would work out the salvation of the world. I do not agree with him, and I do not think that most members of his party agree with him in that. These Bills give effect to the false doctrine that if you can pare down the wealth of the rich man, you have so much wherewith to increase the wellbeing of the poor. There never was a falser doctrine. How would this proposal work out? Everything is a question of degree. A maximum probate duty of 10 per cent, would be a very hurtful thing to a country if other countries had no such duty. When there is a high probate duty in one country, and a low duty in other countries, a flow of the life-blood of industry, that is, capital, is caused from the former to the latter, and the natural flow of capital from countries where it is plentiful to countries where it is scarce and badly needed receives a check. Sub-clause 3 of clause 13 endeavours to impose estate duty on all the personal property, wherever situated, of persons domiciled in Australia. The Government recognise, of course, that there is no way of attaching real estate in other countries; but personal property, including that over which there is a general power of appointment, is taxable wherever situated. I do not suppose that there is any absolute constitutional bar to this Parliament any more than the Parliament of Great Britain, Canada, or South Africa taking the extraordinary step of seizing the citizen who has property in other countries and squeezing from him taxation on that property. Such legislation, however, is not usually considered within the province of the Parliament. I should not like to pronounce an opinion on the constitutionality of the proposal before us; it may not be unconstitutional, but it is certainly contrary to the ordinary principles whereon friendly Governments base their taxing operations.
– Is there not an English precedent ?
– What has been done in income taxation has no application. When a man living in England derives income from other places, it is not unnatural that the British Government should tax that income.
– Although taxation may have been paid on it in the country where it was earned ?
– The propriety of double income taxation has been discussed over and over again, but such taxation is altogether different from the taxation under consideration now. It would have been infinitely fairer to meet the extraordinary difficulties caused by the war by compelling us all to pay income tax. That would have been better than the taxing of a small section. This enormously heavy impost, when added to the burden of taxation imposed by the States, will provide the strongest lever that can be used to prevent Australia from having that share of the floating capital of the world which she needs for the development of her resources. Apart from the unfairness of the proposal under discussion, it is a most imprudent one from the point of view of the workers. We are likely to have very soon a larger army of unemployed than any of us would wish to see. We hope that this unemployment will not last long, and that ‘it will not be great. But the imposition of a tax like this will make the difficulty greater. I know that nothing we on this side may say will produce any effect upon honorable members opposite, but it is our duty to enter our protest against what to me at least appears to be fraught with extreme peril to the country. It appears to me that honorable members opposite are using the extreme peril of the Empire as an excuse for forcing on the people of Australia some of the most drastic and radical planks in their political platform.
.- I shall say only a few words, because the case against the tax has been put very ably by the honorable member for Flinders. The imposition of a tax of this kind to meet the huge deficit staring us in the face is a proposal that every honorable member will agree to. Having said that, 1 feel that the responsibility rests with us to see that the tax is not continued beyond the necessities of the war.
As soon as taxes are imposed upon capital, the capitalists immediately cast about for a means of avoiding them. An English Court has declared that no man is entitled to evade the law, but that a man is entitled to avoid the law, and the first thing that a capitalist sets about is to find a way in which to avoid the payment of taxation of this character. He is entitled to do that, and, in the process of doing it, is apt to injure, not the beneficiaries in his estate, but the men who are imposing the taxes, and who think that they are injuring him. The honorable member for Flinders has given a very clear illustration of what the effect of taxation of capital is upon the inflow of capital into a young country. This is a country in which we require considerable capital to develop our resources. We have vast natural resources in Australia, requiring huge amounts to be spent upon their development. Who is going to come here with a capital of, say, £70,000 - and that is a small amount to develop some of the big copper-mining propositions of Australia - to carry on such an enterprise with the knowledge that life is uncertain, and that, if he should die in the process of developing these works, the Commonwealth will come down with a 25 per cent. impost by way of death duties ?
– Is not a similar tax in operation in the United Kingdom ?
– No. No country imposes a tax of 25 per cent. on a man’s estate. Seventy thousand pounds seems a tremendous sum to those who have nothing like that amount; but take the case of a man with a wife and ten children - and there are plenty of them in this com- munity-
– Say nine, and I am with the honorable member.
– The Leader of the Opposition is the father of nine, and ought to be proud of himself. It is such men who build up the country, and the more we have of them the better for Australia. Take the case of a man with £70,000 - the minimum amount at which the maximum tax applies - and who has ten children. That amount, without any deduction in respect of taxation, will give them £7,000 each. That is not a huge sum for a man to possess. Many of the poor men on the Government benches, who claim to represent the working classes, own more than £7,000 worth of property.
– We have been accused of many things to-night, but this is the worst of all.
-I could pick out a few honorable members opposite whose cheque for £7,000 would be readily cashed. This tax, superimposed upon the State tax, means that, out of an income of £7,000 derivable by a child from the estate of its parent, there would be deducted, by way of taxation, £1,750. That is a tremendous tax to place upon an estate, even although the child inheriting it has not made the money.
– It is a big slice.
– It is an exorbitant tax, and will naturally cause men with money to seek to devise a means by which to avoid it. What means will they adopt? They will start at once to make settlements upon their children. I am referring now to those who cannot leave the country, and who have all their interests here. By dividing their estates, while they are living, among their children, they will avoid the payment of the tax, and it is probable that when the time comes for them to shuffle off, the State will get less from their estates than it would have got if we had imposed a moderate tax.
– Moreover, there will be a great flow of capital into real investments in other countries.
– Undoubtedly. A man who has money to invest, knowing the burdensome annual charge that is imposed here by way of income tax. and knowing also that something like one fourth of his estate is going to be taken by the Commonwealth at his death, will hesitate before he invests money in this country when he can get equally good security elsewhere. In America, where there are huge and vast accumulations of capital which provide safe investments, much Australian capital will be invested, and will thus evade this tax altogether.
– This stuff has been told us again and again before, but it makes no difference.
– My honorable friend is one of those who may be told a thing a thousand times without effect. The warning cannot penetrate. There is something between the ear and the organ inside that prevents any sense getting in.
– I have heard all this before.
– One thing certain is that, whether the honorable member has heard it before or not, he will see the effect of this tax on the revenue which he expects to be collected from this source, and he will see big organizations of capital depart from this country, instead of entering into enterprises that would provide employment for the working classes. There is one man certain of a good job under this Bill, and that is the Commissioner of Taxation, who is to be appointed for a term of seven years, so that his position is secure. That is the only provision in the Bill from which we can gather anything as to the intention of the Government. The Government have not said that this is a war tax. If they had, I might be prepared to say, “ Well, if it is the best you can do, it might be justifiable in time of war.” But when I find the Government providing the machinery for the collection of this tax long after the war may cease - I think that every one of us hopes that it will cease long before seven years have passed - then I recognise that they are not going to deal fairly with those who have accumulated money.
– Did not the AttorneyGeneral say that the tax would, be modified ?
– He did not say in what direction. It might be modified upwards.
– All that he said was that he would not assert that it was to be a permanent tax in this form. That might mean anything. The honorable member for Denison made a statement that was evidently intended to tickle the ears of the groundlings. He said, with a great flourish of trumpets, in the style of the honorable member for East Sydney, “ What do you think of 17,000 people drawing between them £70,000,000 a year as income in Australia?” That seems an enormous sum, and the honorable member’s interjection suggested that there were a certain number of vultures sucking the very life-blood out of Australia. But £70,000,000 divided by 17,000 is exactly the basis upon which the Labour party have created the position of Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The salary which that officer receives is the amount at which we arrive by dividing £70,000,000 by 17,000. It is equal to an income of about £4,000 a year, but, from the statement wrapped up in the inimitable style of the honorable member for Denison, one would think that these men were drawing an outrageously large income. Another peculiar statement made by the honorable member for Denison was that gentlemen who had never paid before would be made to pay now that the Labour party were in power. I do not know of a civilized country where a probate duty is not in operation. The honorable member for Flinders, who preceded me, pointed out that one of the heaviest probate duties in the British Empire was that imposed by him, when Premier of this State, during the drought and ‘the depression that prevailed here some years ago. That was a permanent tax. Would the honorable member describe the honorable member for Flinders as a leading light of the Labour party?
– That tax is re-enacted every year.
– Probate and income taxation are usually proposed every year.
– The previous State probate duty was a permanent tax, but that to which the honorable member refers was exceptionally heavy, and was put on for two years. It has been renewed every year since then.
– Whilst I was a member of the Victorian Parliament, the probate duty and the income tax were passed annually.
– Did that heavy probate duty drive capital out of Victoria? Mr. BOYD.- It had its effect.
– But Australia has gone on.
– Because of bountiful seasons; but it is not progressing to-day at anything like the rate we should like. How many of the supporters of the Labour party are feeling the pinch of unemployment to-day?
– That is because of the drought and the war.
– Exactly. I have just pointed out that the reason why we have continued to go ahead is that during the last ten years we have enjoyed magnificent seasons. These have covered a good many blunders.
– The standard of living in Australia is higher than anywhere else.
– I do not think so. The standard of living in Australia seems to be about as high as in Canada. I have had some personal experience of Canada, and whilst there did not see a man out of work. Although there was an enormous stream of immigration flowing into the country, every man who arrived there was being absorbed at wages averaging $5 a day. This would show that the prosperity of Canada was on a higher plane than that of Australia at that time.
– Was there a Labour Government in Canada then ?
– There never has been a Labour Government there. I am referred by the honorable member for Denison to a little official record entitled Commonwealth Statistics, and issued by Mr. Knibbs, but the figures put a totally different complexion on the position as represented by that honorable member. We are told in that table that the number of persons earning above £200 per annum is 114,000, and that they earn £62,000,000. It will be seen that that line includes the whole of the figures that follow in the table, because if a man earns £5,000 a year he is certainly earning more than £200 a year, and, therefore, he is amongst the 114,000 people.
– The figures mean those who earn £200 and under £300 per year. Quote the whole table.
– We are told in this record that the details as to those who earn under £200 per annum are not known, whereas the details concerning those above £200 are known from the declarations made to the Income Tax Commissioner. When we come to reduce the number of persons by increasing the income, we find that those earning over £300 a year number 57,000, and that they earn £52,000,000. Those earning above £400 a year number 25,000, and they earn £41,000,000. I am, of course, omitting the odd figures. Those who earn above £750 per annum number 15,000, and earn £35,000,000; and these figures come out at little less than half the amount mentioned by the honorable member for Denison. Clause 53 of the Assessment Bill contains, I think, the most drastic penalty that could possibly be imposed for evasion of an Act of Parliament. A trustee or executor might have a prejudice or a grudge against the beneficiaries under a will, and could deprive them of any benefit by seeking to evade the law, because the penalty is a fine of £500 and treble the amount of the duty due, or forfeiture of the estate. Surely such a clause is an outrage. It is not the person who leaves the money by whom the law is evaded, but by some one acting in a fiduciary capacity.
– And then he is not the man who is punished.
– Precisely. I hope the Government will make some modification in this clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914.
.- I move-
That the following words be added : - “ and shall cease to operate on the 30th June, 1915.”
This will make the Bill a yearly enactment, as is the case in many other parts of the world. I shall not attempt to argue the question; it is too late for that now.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– There is no provision in regard to the date on which the duties are to he assessed.
– I shall look into the point, and if it is necessary an amendment will be made in another place. In the meantime, I ask the honorable member not to press the matter. In my opinion no amendment is necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
.- I have compared the provisions of this Bill with many of the provisions of State Acts, and I find that they are mostly verbal adoptions of the States Statutes. For instance, clause 3 is almost a copy of the South Australian section. I do not think that we should appoint a Commissioner for a fixed period of seven years as provided for in clause 5.
– I propose to amend this clause in order to provide that the Land Tax Commissioner will be the Commissioner to administer the estate duty, and as he will then not have any separate tenure of office, Parliament will be perfectly free to limit the operation of the estate duty to any extent it thinks fit. I move -
That sub-clause 2 be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following : -
The Commissioner of Land Tax shall be the Commissioner.
The provisions of section five, subsections (2) and (3), and section six of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1 912 shall apply in relation to the office of Commissioner under this Act as they apply in relation to the office of Commissioner of Land Tax.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Upon the appointment of a Commissioner he shall hold office subject to this Act for a term of seven years, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
– Consequential upon the amendment just made to clause 4, it will be necessary to delete this clause, as also the following clauses relating to the duties and position of the Commissioner.
– I desire to move an amendment to make the tenure of the appointment three years instead of seven, so as to make it compulsory that this legislation shall be reviewed at the end of three years.
– The Commissioner is to be the Commissioner of Land Tax. There is no tenure of office under this Bill at all.
– The effect of that is that the Commissioner becomes Commissioner for all time, instead of seven years.
– No. There is no officer that can stand in the way of the repeal of this measure. The repeal of any Act is not affected by the fact that a certain officer has been appointed for a definite period.
– But I do not want a Commissioner to be appointed for more than three years under this Bill, so that we may review the tax at the end of three years. There is no limitation of the Commissioner’s appointment as Land Tax Commissioner.
– The Commissioner of Land Tax was appointed in 1911 for seven years, and he has already been Commissioner for three years.
– I understand that the Attorney-General does not propose to make any appointment outside this statutory appointment of the Land Tax Commissioner.
– That isso.
– That is all right, because the moment we repeal this legislation we repeal the machinery.
Clauses 6 to 9 negatived.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Duty on estates).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ Estate duty shall not be assessed or payable upon so much of the estate as is devised or bequeathed for religious, charitable, scientific, or educational purposes.”
– I will accept that amendment; but I propose to report progress at this stage. That will give me an opportunity of considering another proposed amendment in relation to widows and next of kin.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
That the Message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Clause 2 (Amendment of Schedule 2).
– The Senate has requested, in line 14 of the schedule, we shall strike out “ fifteen-thousandth,” and insert in lieu “eighteen thousand seven hundred and fiftieth.” The same amendment is consequentially requested at two other places in clause 2, and at three places in clause 3. These amendments have been proposed by the Government in another place in order that the rate of tax on estates of over £75,000 shall not exceed 9d. Formerly, under the formula which appeared in the Bill, the tax was very nearly11d. The amendment reduces it to 9d., and the net effect of that is that on an amount of £75,000 the rate of tax will be less than 5d. I move -
That the requests be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Requested amendments made.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned to the Senate, amended accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
With the assistance of the Opposition we hope to clear the business-paper tomorrow.
– What will be the first business ?
– Suppose we take the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– You will not clear that to-morrow.
– Finish the taxation measures.
– Very well; we will take the taxation measures first, and get through the business as well as we can. [ hope honorable members will be willing; to sit a little later to-morrow night.
– Is it necessary that the Banking Bill shall pass?
– It is a necessary part of the programme that the Commonwealth. Bank Bill shall be passed.
– Then you will be sitting until next week.
– Well, we must sit until next week, and even over Christmas, if necessary. We will meet the wishes of the Opposition as far as we can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141215_reps_6_76/>.