20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to obtain some information from the Prime Minister about certain petitions presented to the Government on behalf of the Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union at the commencement of the current sessional period. Those petitions referred to anomalies in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act concerning temporary employees in the Public Service. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether those petitions have been considered by the Government? If they have been considered, can the Prime Minister state whether tie P- Government intends to take any action upon them? If action is contemplated, when will it be taken?
– The petitions, and the matters mentioned therein to which the honorable member for Banks has referred, have been considered by me. They have not yet been before Cabinet. I shall endeavour to place them before Cabinet at its next meeting, and immediately thereafter, make a statement to the House about them.
– .My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. “Will he give me some information about the position of invalids between the ages of sixteen and 21 years who were previously unable to get the full pension because the income of their parents was in excess of the statutory amount, but who are now entitled to obtain the pension as the result of the recent amendment of the Social Services Consolidation Act? Is it necessary for such persons to apply for a review of their applications, or will such a review be automatically made by the Department of Social Services.
– We do not intend to conduct such a review automatically. Any person who is in the category to which the honorable member for Port Adelaide has referred should re-apply to the department at the earliest possible moment.
– Will the Minister for Social Services consider the advisability of appointing an all-party committee to investigate, and take evidence on the possibility of a progressive abolition of the means test?
– I shall be happy to give the matter consideration.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production inform me when it is expected that the first of the twoseater trainer jet fighters, which are being made in Australia by the De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited, will be ready and flight-tested? At what rate does he expect such aircraft to come off the production line in future?
– I am pleased to inform the honorable member for Indi that the first of a line of D.H. 115 Vampire jet trainers has been flown one month ahead of schedule. That Ls just another example of the efficiency of our Australian aircraft production.
– The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited?
– No, aircraft of this type is made by De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited. As a matter of fact, this side-by-side two-seater trainer is used when a pilot is undergoing a conversion course to fly jet aircraft. The Minister for Air has informed me that this results in a much higher standard of flying and more efficient operation of the weapons that arts associated with jet aircraft. Moreover it results in a reduction of training hours of the operational training unit by some *20 per cent. Honorable members will bt interested to know that these two-seater trainer Vampire jet aircraft are being built ahead of schedule and the Government hopes to maintain, that production.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, and by way of explanation
– Order ! Explanations arc not in order.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in view of the action of the New? South “Wales Labour Government in handing over its socialized tile works to private enterprise-
-Order ! I do not see that that matter has anything to do with this Government.
– This matter is related to the Government’s administration of its own affairs and the loan funds that it advances to the New South Wales Government.
– Order 1 I am afraid that matters that are connected with the New South Wales tile works are not under the control of the Australian Government, and I rule accordingly.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of the Government’s own well-established Liberal principles and the unanimity that las been: secured . by its activities on a matter’ on which you, Mr. Speaker, will not. permit me to make any further comment
-Order ! The honors able member must not reflect on my ruling. He may challenge it in the proper way in accordance with the Standing Orders, but he may not reflect upon it.
– I ask the PrimeMinister in view of these - activities, whether the Government will continue toroot out all socialist enterprises that are controlled, hy it and so ensure efficiency,. reduce taxation, and permit purer concentration by the Government on its own administration and the return to private people of their own freedom ?
– The Prime Minister may answer the question if he wishesto do so, but the matter appears to me tobe one of policy.
– I fear that it is a matter of policy. I made a speech .on the subject last night and if the House will give me leave to repeat it here, I shall bc quite happy to do so.
– In view of the fact that all unemployed persons are entitled to the full unemployment benefit: even though they have money in the bank and own property, will the Minister acting, for the Minister for Labour and National Service ensure that all persons who register as unemployed are informed of their rights?
– I understand that persons who register as unemployed areso advised by the officer in charge of theCommonwealth Employment Service. I stall ascertain whether that is so. To thebest of my knowledge, unemployed persons arc given the information towhich the honorable member has referred.
– Oyer threeweeks ago, I placed on the notice-paper a simple question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, in which I asked to be informed? of the number of unemployed persons in the Bondi and Waverley districts. That questionhas not yet been answered. As the information should be readily available from monthly reports furnished by departmental officers, I should like to know for how long an honorable member must wait to get answers to questions that he places on the notice-paper. In view of the long delay that has occurred, will the Minister, when he is replying to my question, also advise me of the number of unem ployed personnel in those districts forthe month of September?
– I understand that the reply to the question to which the honorable member has referred was furnished to theClerk to-day. The information will, therefore, shortly be made available to the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the recommendations of the International Materials Conference with regard to the most economical use of scarce materials, particularly cobalt, manganese, tungsten and molybdenum, are being effectively carried out in Australia ? If not, will the Minister consider ways and means of ensuring that the main recommendations affecting the Australian use of those materials are implemented?
– After the International Materials Conference had made certain recommendations, the Commonwealth appointed a working committee to consider matters raised in those recommendations. The Department of Defence Production, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of National Development and the Department of Supply are represented on the committee. Ithas made a series of recommendations and, for some months, hasbeencollaborating with private industry. I am glad to tell the House that private industry has received the activities of the committee with great enthusiasm, that it is co-operating warmly with it, and that it is giving us all the assistance that it can give in connexion with the conservation of scarce materials, including those to which the honorable member has referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is the Government at present preparing or supporting a plan for an increase of the price of stock-feedwheat ? If so, what increase is it supporting? What effect would such an increase have upon poultry-farmers and egg producers in Australia?
– The selling price of stock-feed wheat is a matter entirely within the province of the -State Governments. Any legislative provision that deals with the price of stock-feed wheat could be the outcome only of State legislation. This matter will be considered in the discussions that are taking place between representatives of the wheat industry and of governments, but it is entirely within the control of the States..
– Will the Minister for Air say whether it would be possible for Royal Australian Air Force personnel stationed at Rathmines to undertake the work of removing the sand bar at the entrance to Lake Macquarie in Swansea, New South Wales, which is preventing the passage of Royal Australian Air Force crash boats, fishing vessels and other small craft? I understand that there is equipment at Rathmineswhich could be used for this purpose, and it has been suggested tome that the work would give valuable training to the personnel concerned.
– Only recently, the Royal Australian Air Force repair section was removed from Rathmines owing to the presence of the sand bar at Swansea. I shall refer the problem to the appropriate air force authorities. If it is possible to shave off the top of the sand bar during the spare time of Royal Australian Air Force personnel stationed at Rathmines, I shallbe only too happy to recommend that that task be undertaken.
– I ask the Minister for Territories to say when the Government intends to fill the post of Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New
Guinea, from which the late Administrator was forcibly retired? What is the reason for the delay in filling the post ? What method does the Government propose to adopt in appointing a successor to the former Administrator?
– The Government will follow the customary method of placing before Cabinet various possibilities regarding the filling of this post of Administrator. In due course, Cabinet will make a decision on the matter. It has been customary over the years for that particular appointment, and the appointment of administrators of all our territories, to be a matter for Cabinet decision.
– Is it a fact that residents of Papua and New Guinea are almost entirely dependent for their supplies of meat on shipments of fresh and canned meat from Australia? Is it a fact that these meat supplies are very expensive and that acute shortages occur if there are shipping hold-ups? Is the Government taking any action to encourage the development of the beef, cattle and dairying industries in Papua and New Guinea?
– Broadly speaking, the basis of the honorable member’s question is correct. The Government is taking very energetic action to develop the cattle industry in the territory. We are spending a certain amount of money, and giving encouragement to private enterprise also, to introduce cattle to the territory, and we are maintaining several stations for cattle introduction, local breeding of cattle and experimentation with the general object of building up the cattle herds of the territory. Before the war the territory carried extensive herds of cattle, but the whole of those were killed for food during the Japanese occupation and we are facing a hig task in trying to restore the cattle herds to the territory.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether, in his opinion, the latest offer made by the United Nations mediators in Korea as a basis for negotiations represents a major concession in an effort to reach an armistice agreement? If that be the Minister’s opinion, will he explain to the House why he holds it? If the offer has been refused by the Communists, would the right honorable gentleman consider that the refusal was evidence of their insincerity in these negotiations, and that there was no real desire on their part for an armistice?
– The Leader of the Opposition asked a similar question yesterday. I was not then in a position to answer it, because the United Nations had not released the details of the offer that had been made at Pan Mun Jom However, it is now possible to give some information concerning the matter. Last Sunday, the United Nations representative at the peace talks at Pan Mun Jom made three far-reaching proposals to overcome the deadlock that has existed for a long time in respect of prisoners of war, which is the one remaining matter that stands in the way of an armistice. The first proposal was that all enemy prisoners of war in United Nations hands be moved to a neutral zone and be there screened by either national or international Red Cross teams or by selected teams of neutrals agreed upon by both sides, and that any prisonei’3 of war who were shown by screening as not willing or who declare distinctly their wish not to be returned to their country of origin, should be allowed to return to South Korea. The second proposal was that prisoners of war who refused, during the United Nations screening, to return to their own country should be taken to a neutral place and there examined by selected teams similar to. those that I have mentioned in relation to the first proposal. The third proposal was that prisoners of war who had previously refused repatriation should be taken to the neutral zone between the lines and left free to go north or south as they wished. All those proposals apparently - I stress the word apparently - have been rejected by the Communists. I believe that they represent the limit to -which the United Nations negotiators can go in an effort to establish their bona fides and make the Communists believe that everything possible has been done in respect of the wide variety of screening that has been suggested. I say that the Communists have apparently rejected the proposals, because we have not yet had official confirmation of any rejection, although it lias been reported publicly from Communist sources that all three alternatives 1 1 ave been rejected. I believe that the utter limit has now been reached by the United Nations negotiators in an effort to overcome this deadlock and achieve an armistice.
– I address to the Minister for External Affairs a question that m rises to some degree from the question of the honorable member for Oxley and the Minister’s answer to it. My question relates, not to enemy prisoners of war in United Nations hands but to Australian prisoners of war in the hands of tile Chinese, North Koreans or other Communist forces. Yesterday, the Minister pointed out that apparently no communications existed between Australians who are prisoners of war and their relatives. I now ask the Minister to adopt, as a matter of urgency, the procedure that was adopted during the war against Japan when, because of lack of other means of communication with the enemy government, the Australian Government invoked the good offices of the Vatican and obtained valuable information about, and communications with, Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands. “Will the Minister investigate the possibility of using a similar procedure now, in order to discover whether it will produce some change in the present situation?
– The right honorable gentleman asked me a question on the same lines yesterday. There are few Australian prisoners of war in Communist enemy hands. I understand that there are only six Australian prisoners of war alive whose capture has actually been established, and that six other Australians, who comprise one officer and five other ranks, are missing and are believed to be possibly prisoners of war. That makes a. total maximum of twelve Australian prisoners of war in enemy hands. There exist none of the regular means of communication between those prisoners of war and their relatives or the Government. There is no means of inspection of prisoner-of-war camps in enemy territory by Red Cross or other neutral agencies. We have not called on the good offices of any other country, because neither inspection of prisoner-of-war camps nor communication with prisoners of war has been allowed by the enemy. Since the negotiations have been going on at Pan Mun Jom, it has been possible to arrange for the exchange of letters through the negotiators and letters have been passing through in a reasonable way in recent months. Letters have been getting to these men, and letters have been coming from them to their families. I understand that the gist of the communications is to the effect that all of the men are receiving the same food as is being supplied to their guards ; and I believe that they are not in a condition of any great distress. Owing to the conditions that exist, that may have to be taken with some degree of reserve. If any information comes through about this matter to the Minister for Defence or the Minister for the Army, I expect that they will make it available to the House.
– Will the right honorable gentleman note the suggestion that I have made?
Mr- CASEY. - I shall certainly do so. and will see what can be done to act upon it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been directed to an allegation that his department has wasted money on the transport of equipment to the uranium field at Rum Jungle ? It has been alleged that six loaded trucks arrived there recently from Alice Springs and that all except one of the drivers of the trucks are still at Rum Jungle. Is that allegation correct? If it is, will the Minister place the facts before the House ?
– The allegation to which the honorable member has referred is quite false. When my attention was directed to the matter I had it investigated immediately, and I am now able to state the facts. Certain mining equipment was urgently needed at Rum Jungle and it was taken there from Bendigo. It was transported by rail to Port Augusta and thence to Alice Springs, whence it was trucked to Rum Jungle. By following that course we were able to land the equipment at the uranium field within sl fortnight, whereas delivery would have been delayed for many months if we had relied upon the shipping that was then Available. Culcairn was off the run and, owing to the time factor, the equipment could not be consigned on Bungarten, which took the place of the former vessel. Two vessels that were available in Western Australian ports would not ha to been able to deliver the equipment within a reasonable time. Thus, by taking the action that was taken, we saved several months in the transport of the equipment. The honorable member has mentioned the allegation that drivers of certain trucks were left unemployed for a period at Rum Jungle. That is not correct. The drivers concerned are on the staff of the stores and transport section of my department, and their services were utilized at the mine in erecting machinery. The vehicles in question are now making the return journey and are backloaded with goods for southern ports. It is obvious that one cannot please certain people who, at one moment, allege that the department is doing nothing and, when the department takes action, allege that it is being extravagant. In my view, a good job was done in this instance.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, prior to the Iranian Government’s action in breaking its agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, the national income of Iran depended to a large degree upon income from sales of petroleum through that company. As Iran, despite the loss of this principal source of income, has managed to maintain a degree of economic stability, is any information available about whether certain financial aid has been provided to that country by other countries? Has any information been received officially about Mossadeq’s intentions regarding the recent British proposals for the settlement of the present oil dispute?
– It is true that revenue from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited represented a substantial part of the budgetary receipts of the Iranian Government. I believe that about one- third of Iran’s total revenue was derived from that source. The embarrassment caused to the Iranian Government by the cutting off of that source of revenue is quite apparent. I understand that Iran has made every effort to fill the gap left by the loss of that revenue by all sorts of methods that cannot be detailed, including the running down of its overseas balances, the more stringent collection of overdue taxes, heavy internal loans and the collection of revenue from other sources that will not be permanent. The United States of America, in past years, has helped Iran in both military and civil development in the same way as it has helped a great many other countries that are trying to re-establish their economies or increase the scope of their developmental projects. I understand that American aid is not now forthcoming to afford budgetary assistance to the Iranian Government. I have no current information on the last part of the honorable member’s question. I believe that the negotiations have made no progress, but I shall have that matter investigated and advise him about it subsequently.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that drilling contractors and private owners are unable to procure 6-in. bore casing while 5-in. and S-in. casing is readily available? Is this shortage due to the diversion of the 6-in. casing to the bores that the Government is putting down in the Northern Territory? If so, will the Minister approach the manufacturers and ask them to speed up the production of 6-in. bore casing?
– I know from representations that the honorable member has made to me that the short supply of 6-in. bore casing is a serious matter. I shall consult with those of my colleagues whose departments can help to solve the problem. The appropriate government officials will also make representations to the manufacturers to ascertain what can be done to make good thu shortage. I recognize how important it is that there should be adequate supplies of the most used type of bore casing.
– My question to tie Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service relates to a question that I asked him recently about a desire on the part of some of the persons residing at government hostels to install electric cookers in order that they might do their own cooking. Is the Minister yet in a position to inform the House of any decision that may have been reached about this matter?
Mr. McBRIDE This matter is receiving the consideration of the relevant department, hut I am not in a position at the moment to inform the House about any decision that may have been made.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government in the near future to introduce legislation that will affect the divorce laws ? If that is not the case will the Prime Minister explain to the House the reasons which have given rise to that belief in the public mind?
– The question whether there should be uniform divorce laws has not come before Cabinet for decision. The present state of affairs is that, at an earlier stage under our predecessors, an expert committee was appointed to examine this problem. Since we have been in office, the honorable member for Balaclava, who has done a great deal of work on this matter and, as the honorable member for Bowman knows, has particular knowledge of the legal problems involved, has produced a draft of a uniform divorce law, which I have transmitted to the Attorney-General so that it may be examined by the law officers. However, the matter is not yet ripe for decision by the Government and has not, in fact, been considered hy it.
– It is not a very simple question.
– No, I agree with the right honorable gentleman that it is not simple.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government is still spending money on an advertising campaign designed to induce people to save money. If so, will the right honorable gentleman organize a new campaign in order to reverse the policy so as to encourage people to spend money and’ thus create employment?
– Although the question has been addressed to the Prime Minister, it concerns the Treasury The advertising campaign to encourage saving is continuing. The course of action that the honorable member ‘has proposed is not necessary,
– Having regard to the high rate of expenditure on defence, and the public interest in the purposes to which that expenditure is devoted, I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to a statement that appeared in r,he London press - -
– Order ! The honor- . able gentleman may not found a question on a newspaper statement.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a recent statement by the United Kingdom Minister for Supply on the subject of guided weapons and the practices that have been adopted hy the United Kingdom in connexion with their manufacture and use? Having regard to tha heavy expenditure in which Australia has been involved in respect of such defence work, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will consult with his colleagues with a view to determining the degree to which the Government may take the public of Australia into its confidence along the lines indicated by the United Kingdom Minister for Defence.
– I think that it is well known among the Australian people that a great deal of work is going on at what has been called, compendiously, the rocket range, on matters of the kind to which the honorable member has referred. As the honorable member knows, this work is being conducted in very close co-operation with the Government and experts of the United Kingdom. I know that the work done at Woomera is regarded as work of very high value and great skill. The extent to which our resources are committed to that work is known to honorable members, because they are aware that it involves one of the largest items in Australia’s defence programme. Whether the people should be told of the precise nature of the experiments that are being conducted is a question on which I offer no opinion. I have a simple rule that, if there is any doubt whether information on. work of that kind might help a potential enemy, no such information should be disclosed. It is better that we should go without a little news than that a possible enemy should have too much news.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Was the right honorable gentleman, in his capacity as Prime Minister, accorded a good hearing at a meeting held last night in the Flinders electorate? Did he gain the impression-
– Order ! The question is outside the scope of the ministerial functions of the Prime Minister.
– So far as the honorable member for Mitchell went, he was right.
– Will the Minister for the Interior cause an inquiry to be made into the resumption, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act, of land owned by the honorable member for Bennelong? In view of the complaint of the honorable member that six years have passed and he has not been paid for this land, will the Minister particularly inquire whether the sole reason for non-payment is that, although the highest valuation approved by the V al uerGeneral-
-Order ! The honorable member is now giving information. He should ask a question.
– He is making a smear attack, as usual.
– Will the Minister investigate whether the price approved by the Valuer-General is £1,900, and whether the honorable member for Bennelong insists on a price of £11,300, and refuses to ask the Land and Valuation Court for a decision?
– The Minister is not here. The honorable member for EdenMonaro would not have asked the question, if the Minister had been here.
Question not answered.
Attacks on Sib Arthur Fadden, M.P.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question about a serious matter. An influential body in Australia has said that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stands unchallenged as Australia’s greatest confidence man–
– Order ! Is the question based on a newspaper report?
– Will the honorable member inform me of the basis of the statement ?
– I rise to order, and direct attention to the fact that the question is based on a report published in a newspaper. I read it this morning.
– I am basing my question on the Treasurer’s own complaints, which I have heard. In view of the high office which the right honorable gentleman occupies in this Parliament, will the Prime Minister investigate the basis of this serious charge ? If the charge proves to be groundless, will the Prime Minister take steps to have this scandalous reflection expunged from the name of the Treasurer, and will he. deal suitably with the proprietors ?
– This suggestion has all the charm of novelty. It assumes that the head of the Government of this country at Canberra has power to deal with what newspapers publish. All that I can say is, “ That will be the day “. I realize that the honorable member for Banks quoted faithfully a head-line in a newspaper, and then, I regret to say, denied that his source of information was a newspaper. That denial was unfortunate. However, his reference to my colleague, the Treasurer, is well put. I am happy to tell the honorable member that the Treasurer enjoys my confidence and that of all his colleagues.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! If the House is not prepared to maintain order, I shall call on the business of the day.
– In view of the personal charges of dishonesty levelled against the Treasurer by the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not base a question on newspaper reports.
– You, Mr. Speaker, are the custodian of the privileges of honorable members.
– Is the honorable gentleman raising a matter of privilege?
– Does the honorable member propose to conclude with a motion, or is he asking me a question?
– I am asking you a question in order to see whether-
– Order ! There is so much noise from the front bench that I cannot hear the honorable member for Canning.
– I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, a question in order to ascertain whether you can give me information, or guidance on the matter, because I have given some thought to the subject since the Treasurer made his statement to the House yesterday. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, in view of the charges-
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member for Canning is raising a matter of privilege, or is asking you a question without notice. If he is raising a matter of privilege, I would direct your attention to the fact that he has not yet answered your question about whether he proposes to conclude with a motion.
– Order ! I understood the honorable member for Canning to say that he was asking me for guidance cn a matter affecting the Treasurer. If an honorable member so desires, he is entitled to have that guidance, always remembering that it is taken for what it is worth.
– I shall address my question to you again, Mr. Speaker. In view of the charges of personal dishonesty levelled against the Treasurer by the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph, both of which are published in Sydney-
– I again rise to order. Is the honorable member for Canning in order in asking a question, without notice, based on newspaper articles?
– When the privileges of an honorable member are concerned, a question may be .based on a newspaper article. A similar position, in which the honorable member for Melbourne was involved, arose recently.
– In view of the personal charges of dishonesty levelled against the Treasurer hy the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph, Wil you, Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of the privileges of honorable members, notify the proprietors of those journals that the privileges allowed their representatives in this House will be suspended
– I rise to order. Should not the newspapers to which reference has been made, be produced in the House?
– Order ! That stage has not yet been reached.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills is interrupting too much. If he does not reform, I shall name him.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, notify the proprietors of those two journals that the privileges allowed their representatives in this House will be suspended until both newspapers publish a withdrawal and an apology?
– I shall tender no such advice to the proprietors of those two journals, because in these matters I act upon the decision of the House. If a statement has been published by any journal which affects the personal or political integrity of a Minister, that is his concern in the first place. It is the concern of the Government, of which he is a member, in the second place. It does not become my concern until the House has given me an instruction. So far, I have not been asked for advice on that matter, except by the honorable member for Canning.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the decisions of the Anzus Council are determined by a majority vote, or whether they must be unanimous in order to be effective? What was the result of the voting on the British request for the right to have an observer at the Anzus conference recently? What was the attitude of Australia to that request? Does the Australian Government keep Great Britain advised of happenings at the Anzus Council, or is that country treated as a foreign power?
– There is no question of voting at the Anzus Council or any of its subsidiary bodies. That matter has not arisen, and I do not expect that it will arise. I have already reported to the House at considerable length on the political and military discussions which took place at Honolulu recently, and I have nothing to add to my statement.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the alleged hypothetical question which I asked in this House some months ago concerning whether the Government intended to issue visas to members of a trade union delegation to travel to places behind the Iron Curtain has been found to be a question of fact? Will the Prime Minister say whether visas have been issued to a number of people for travel to the Soviet next month, or whether the Government proposes to issue passports for that purpose? If it proposes to issue passports, has any safeguard been provided in order to ensure that those persons shall not visit Peking? Should members of the delegation visit Peking, can it be assumed that they may discuss peace proposals? In that event, for whom will they speak?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration will answer the question.
– My impression is that applications have not been received for visas to enable persons to attend the conference to which the honorable member for Shortland has referred. I may be wrong when I make that statement, so I shall have the matter investigated, and furnish a reply, if I am able to do so.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether there is any substance in the report that the United States Administration is considering an increase of the import duties applicable to foreign wool? Can he give the House any information about that matter? Does the Australian Government propose to take any action upon it? I hope that the Government realizes the seriousness of the implications of higher American duties to the Australian wool industry
– There is substance in the report that the United States Administration is to conduct an inquiry that may result in the imposition of higher duties on Australian and other foreign wools.
– What is the duty against Australian wool at the present time.
– It is 25$ cents per lb. clean. The matter is of such great public importance that I propose to ask the House for leave to make a short statement on it at the end of question time, and I shall then set out the factual position at the moment.
– by leave - The Government has been informed that the President of the United States of America has directed the United States Tariff Commission to institute an inquiry under section 22 of the Agriculture Adjustment Act into wool, carbonized wool and wool-tops. The inquiry appears to have been brought about by concern in the United States of America that imported wools may threaten the American wool price support programme, under which the Department of Agriculture keeps wool prices at a fixed minimum level, by forcing the department to buy, with public funds, substantial quantities of domestic wool. There is evidence to suggest that the immediate cause of the inquiry was the importation into the United States of America of subsidized South American wool-tops. However, we are concerned because raw wool, which is the American term synonymous with greasy wool in Australia, has been included within the scope of the inquiry and because, according to cabled advice received this morning, a representative of the United States Department of Agriculture has recommended to the Tariff Commission that flexible import fees be imposed on all apparel wool and wooltops that are imported for consumption. The proposed import fees, which have the support of the American industry wool representatives, would operate on a flexible basis according to the relationship of open-market wool prices and the Department of Agriculture’s support price. The Government has been in consultation with the Australian Wool Board and federal organizations of wool-growers, which have indicated that they prefer not to intervene despite the obvious threat to their market. The Government is at present giving urgent consideration to the steps that it should take in the matter. The House and the wool industry may be assured that the Government fully recognizes the great importance of this issue to the Australian wool industry and to the Australian economy.
– by leave - The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has pointed out - and this is a vital part of his statement - that neither the Australian Wool Board nor the federal organizations of wool-growers have indicated any desire for the Government to intervene in this matter despite the obvious threat to their market.
– No, they do not desire, themselves, to intervene.
– Perhaps the reason for that course of action by the organizations may be explained to the House at a later stage.
– I believe that they desire to leave the issue to the Government to negotiate and they themselves do not desire to intervene.
– The interests of Australia are so vitally affected that any reasonable support that the Opposition can give in the matter wl il certainly be given.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications)
Bill 1952. “ Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1952. Distillation Bill 1952. Excise Bill 1952.
State Grants (Special Financial Assistance! Bill 1952.
Dried Fruits Export Control Bill 1952.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has made his usual laconic speech and left the matter there. He has given no explanation why the Government considers that its business is more important than private members’ business that should he discussed to-morrow. If the motion is agreed to, it will deprive honorable members of a discussion on three items that are listed under general business. One of them is a notice of motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for the appointment of a select committee of this House to examine all aspects of the operation and administration of import restrictions and the effects of such restrictions upon Australian industry. The Opposition believes that the House should have an opportunity to discuss that matter, but if this motion is carried honorable members will not have an opportunity of doing so for another three weeks. By that time, we may be at the end of the sessional period and honorable members will not want to do anything then except conclude government business as quickly as possible. In the orders of the day under general business there is a notice of motion standing under the name of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who has addressed the House upon the very important matter of a soil erosion survey. A number of other honorable members have ideas on that matter, but it will not be discussed during this sessional period either, if the motion is agreed to. Then there is an interesting morsel that will tickle your palate, Mr. Speaker. It relates to a ministerial statement on the position of parliamentary under-secretaries. The ministerial statement upon that matter was debated very briefly and the debate was then adjourned. Possibly the House will not have an opportunity to discuss it further if the motion moved by the VicePresident of the Executive Council is agreed to. On the general question of private members’ rights, the Opposition believes that at least for the second time in the history of this Government, private members should have an opportunity tomorrow to discuss business that they have placed upon the notice-paper, or ministerial statements that are of great importance and are listed under General Business in the Orders of the Day. If private members surrender all rights in these matters, the Government will use the Parliament solely as an institution to register approval for all that the Government wants to be approved. Nothing that the Opposition, or even any private member sitting behind the Government leaders, wants to bring forward will stand a chance of being discussed or decided in the House.
In the State Houses of Parliament, private members have an opportunity to bring forward bills for discussion and they do not take them only to the secondreading stage. In some instances, such bills may be passed on to another place, after they have been amended, by the Legislative Assembly or the House of Assembly, as the case may be. All those rights have gone in this House. By a process of attrition, honorable members’ rights have been whittled down until the Government now thinks that the Parliament exists merely for the convenience of Ministers and that honorable members have nothing better to do than to sit in their places and vote. Theirs not to reason why ; theirs but to vote when they are required to, and then to meet political extinction for having, backed a bad government.
.- This is the second occasion during the last few days on which members of the Opposition have been obliged to protest against the action of the Government in overriding their rights by the use of a brutal majority. You, Mr. Speaker, recently inaugurated a system under which there is stated in the notice-paper the date upon which a question upon notice has been asked. It would be a good idea if you followed the same procedure in connexion with notices of motion. Notice of a motion which the Opposition is eager to discuss was placed upon the notice-paper, not in recent weeks but during the last series of sittings of the House.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), whose main task in this chamber seems to be either to move the gag or to propose motions that prevent members of the Opposition from expressing their views upon certain subjects, has not advanced one reason why, in his opinion, Government business should take precedence of general business to-morrow. We want the right honorable gentleman to advance some reasons for the motion that he has proposed. I am not convinced that it is right that the Opposition should not be given an opportunity to discuss a most important motion, of which notice has been given. It was stated recently that, while this Government has been in office, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has established an all-time world record for gagging free speech in this chamber. Members of the Opposition have been prevented from raising matters that are of importance, not only to their constituents, but also to Australia generally. It is time that the Opposition, instead of complying with the wishes of the Government in regard to the order of business, began to assert its rights under the Standing Orders to raise matters of great importance.
I support wholeheartedly the protest that has been made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite, who are themselves being denied an opportunity to raise matters that they consider to be of general importance, will not be content to be pliant tools in the hands of the Executive, and that they will demand their rights as private members of the Parliament.
– They need them more than we do, really.
– That is so. Some months ago, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) proposed a motion dealing with soil erosion, which is a most important national problem. It is time that he asserted his right as a member of the Parliament to have that motion discussed further. I protest against this action by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who, in a. dictatorial manner, is endeavouring to wipe out the rights of members of the Opposition and of members of the Parliament generally.
– in reply - I always enjoy the air of injured innocence that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) assumes when he rises to chide me about certain matters upon which he himself is only too vulnerable. The honorable gentleman has said that we propose to use this House as an instrument for the transaction of Government business, without considering the rights of honorable members. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) sought to support that allegation by directing attention to the fact that, on a number of occasions, I have had to apply the gag or to move for the closure of a debate. On the last occasion on which the Opposition objected to the procedure that I have followed in this chamber, I pointed out that, if honorable gentlemen opposite insisted upon preventing Ministers from exercising their right to reply to debates, I had no alternative but to move for the closure of such debates, because Government business has to be transacted. If the members of the Opposition were to be permitted to indulge at great length in irrelevant arguments and tedious repetition, the Government would not be able to transact its business.
On the few occasions when the Opposition has been ‘prepared to permit a Minister to reply to a debate, there has been no need to move for the closure of the debate. Having regard to the present size of this House, the Government would be unable to transact its business if every honorable member exercised his right to speak upon a measure.
I have said that, in this matter, the honorable member for Melbourne is himself quite vulnerable. I have a lively recollection of happenings on occasions such as this, when the present Government parties were in Opposition. I have in my hand a copy of Votes and, Proceedings of this House for Thursday, the 24th February, 1949. On page 236 of that document, there is an item headed “Mr. Deputy Speaker - Want of Confidence Motion “. I moved that motion, on behalf of the then Opposition, because of the unsatisfactory state of affairs that existed in connexion with the conduct of the business of the House. At that time, the Deputy Speaker was the present honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). The motion was in the following terms : -
That this House has no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -
That in the discharge of his duties he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government Members;
The he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of this Parliament.
– I rise to order. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has referred to a motion that was moved in a previous Parliament. It is clear that the intention of the right honorable gentleman in doing so is to impute improper motives to, and to cast a reflection upon, the honorable member for Darling. That is forbidden by the Standing Orders. I ask you to rule accordingly, Mr. Speaker.
-I am afraid that, in the short speeches to which I have listened, I have heard references to the use of a brutal majority to prevent-
– Those were general, not personal, remarks.
– The remarks of the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil are general, too. The right honorable gentleman is replying, to the debate. In doing so,. I think he is entitled to refer to incidents that occurred in a Parliament that is no longer in existence, and for which his critics may have to accept some responsibility.
-I should not have read this motion if honorable gentlemen opposite had not read notices of motion that are at present on the notice-paper. The motion continued as follows : -
That motion was moved on the 24th February, 1949, but it was not until the 8th September, 1949 - seven months later - that it came up for discussion again in the House. During that period of seven months, members of the then Opposition had been seeking an opportunity to discuss the motion, which was of great urgency because it related to procedural matters, and affected the rights and privileges of every honorable member. The honorable member for East Sydney has said that I am trying to prevent free speech. When I was a member of the Opposition, I moved a substantive motion which expressed a want of confidence in the Deputy Speaker, because I believed that he was trying to restrict free speech in this chamber, but those honorable gentlemen opposite who were then members of the Government were not sufficiently aware of their responsibilities to insist upon the motion being discussed. It did not come up for discussion until seven months after I had proposed it, and even then it was discussed only partially, The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction at that time, who had secured the adjournment of the debate on the 24th February, 1949, moved an amendment to the motion, and the motion did not see the light of day again. No honorable member was permitted to speak on that matter, because the Labour Government kept general business completely off the business paper, for the reason that it knew that if general business had been called upon for debate that matter would have been the first item to be discussed. So, when honorable members opposite rise in their injured innocence and declaim about what we are doing to the House in regard to “ Grievance Day “, the House and the country will realize just how much sincerity there is in their objections.
Question put -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 25th September (vide page 2115), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Fisher Labour Government, which introduced the Land Tax Bill in 1910, met with very strong opposition from the Opposition of the day which was led by Sir Joseph Cook. The main purpose of that legislation was to break up large estates and to unlock lands for the benefit of the land-hungry sons of small farmers.
– Also to increase the production of food.
– I shall deal in a moment with the reasons for which the Fisher Government wished to break up big estates. The squattocracy of Australia in those days held large tracts of fertile land in good rainfall areas. The Labour Government decided that that land should be put to its best possible use. In other words, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said, by way of interjection, its purpose was to enable the production of as much food as possible for the benefit of the Australian people and Australia’s export trade. Although these objectives have been achieved to varying degrees there is still too much land in Australia held by too few people. There are still farms of 12,000 acres and more in the western district of Victoria, which could hold hundreds of farmers instead of just one squatter, his family and employees. That particular part of Australia is situated in one of the best rainfall areas in the Commonwealth. There are towns in the western district of Victoria which have been land-locked ever since their formation as towns. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) could tell the House of the little town of Dunkeld which has never been allowed to develop because squatters hold big area3 all round it. That is true of many other parts of Australia. This tax was also intended to serve another purpose. It was designed to produce revenue, and it succeeded in that respect also. In the financial year 1911-12 the Government collected £1,600.000 from this tax. From the financial year 1914-15 to the financial year 1927-28 a yearly average of approximately £2,900,000 was collected from it. In 1932-33, during the regime of the Lyons Government, the tax was reduced and an amount of only £1,500,000 was collected from it in that financial year. That position continued for a few years until the outbreak of World War II. In 1940-41 the first Menzies Government increased the tax to the rate at which it had operated prior to the advent of the Lyons Government - the government that was so solicitous of the interests of big squatters and big city land-owners. In that vear the tax collected amounted to £3,300,000. In 1951-52 the sum of £6,198,768 was collected in land tax. Under this measure, the, Government proposes to abolish the tax and thereby make a gift of that amount to 21,000 taxpayers each of whom owns land of an unimproved value of at least £8,750. It cannot be said that those people are small farmers, or that they are poverty stricken. They have not mortgages tied round their necks, and they are not in pawn to the banks. They are wealthy persons ; but all of them are not country people. The great majority of them are city people.
Nine amendments have been made of the original Land Tax Act, and two of them, which were made during the depression years, were incorporated in what were described euphemistically as financial relief acts. In the first of those two instances the rate of tax was reduced by 33-J per cent, on the rates for 1931-32, or a reduction of 40 per cent, on the rates for 1914-15, and, in the second instance, the reduction represented a decrease of 33$ per cent, on the rates of 1932-33, or a reduction of 55 per cent, on the rates for 1914-1 5. Under those amending measures, the Lyons Government remitted a sum of £600,000 in the first instance and an additional sum of £400,000 in the second instance to persons who were liable to pay land tax, and to that degree those persons were enabled to batten on the misery of age and invalid pensioners whose benefits were reduced at that time by £625,000. This Government is doing much the .same sort of thing under this measure under which it proposes to relieve persons liable to pay land tax of a liability of £7,000,000 annually. As those persons are already doing all right for themselves in this world, the Government would do much better if it retained the land tax and expended collections from it in providing increases of the rates of age, invalid, widows and war pensions and so assisted all recipients of pensions to meet the present high cost of living.
The title to land is not absolute. The public interest demands that all land should be used to the maximum for the benefit of the nation. Those who own land and do not put it to its maximum use have no cause to complain if the Government compulsorily resumes it or, by a system of taxation, compels those who have more land than they can use to the maximum to sell it on just terms to other persons who can and will utilize it for the utmost good of the nation. The late Richard Seddon, when he was Prime Minister of New Zealand, put through the Parliament of that country a land tax bill which contained the interesting provision that every landowner should assess the value of his land and the Government had not only the right to impose tax on the basis of that assessment but also, if necessary, to resume the land on that basis. We might do something of that kind in this country. The Labour party believes in the land tax and is opposed to its abolition. Land tax is a socially necessary tax. When no land tax is levied small farms will be bought up by wealthy persons with the result that the whole process of breaking up large estates will have to be started all over again. If the Fisher legislation of 1910 did not succeed in breaking up all of the large estates in this country it certainly succeeded in breaking up many of them and in preventing the accumulation of more and more land in the hands of fewer persons.
– Country people favour a land tax.
– Yes. The land is the patrimony of the people, and its use must be protected and safeguarded at all times. AH citizens have a right to the produce of the land. Although we have a system of freehold and leasehold tenure in this country, nobody believes that any person who owns land should be permitted to do as he likes with it to the detriment of the nation. Some people believe that we should have only one tax, and that a land tax. Such persons, who are known as single taxers argue that land tax is the one tax that provides an incentive to all production. They contend that all other main taxes are a discouragement to work and to the accumulation of goods which can produce more goods, that is, true capital. The Australian Labour party has been influenced by the teachings of Henry George, as it has been influenced over the years by those of other economists; and it has adopted, in part, the theory that the single taxers advocate.
– And also the teachings of Karl Marx.
– The Marxist theory of surplus value was really the product of one of the earliest English socialists. Robert Owen. All that Marx did was to purloin that theory and to make a synthesis of all economic theories. He was not an original thinker but Henry George certainly was and his views won considerable support in many countries. The single taxers and those who believe in the principle of a land tax, even for the limited purposes for which it was imposed originally by the Fisher Government, find it difficult to understand why this Government, which is exhorting everybody to increase production, is still levying taxes that will have the effect of discouraging production but, at the same time, is removing taxes that provide incentives to increase production. It is obvious that if a property of 12,000 acres, which is now used to run a few fat bullocks or merino sheep, were subdivided to settle twelve men each on a 1,000-acre block, more food would be produced from such land. Furthermore, the payment of land tax cannot be evaded, for the debt is fully secured by the value of the land itself. It is also argued that a land tax is not inflationary in character, whereas all other taxes tend to increase prices. It cannot be denied that the sales tax, for instance, substantially affects the cost of living. It cannot be denied, either, that our economy is suffering at present because good land, both in the cities and in the country, is allowed to remain idle or insufficiently utilized. If an incentive were given to utilize such land fully, it would be possible to institute a general movement from poorer land to land of better quality which, at present, is not being fully utilized. Such a policy would result in a higher standard of living. To-day, Denmark is one of the most prosperous countries, economically and socially, in Europe, because it imposes a land tax. Countries in north-western Europe which impose such a tax are much more prosperous than are Egypt, Italy, Spain and Persia which do not impose a land tax and in which extremes of riches and poverty exist and unemployment always prevails. It is no wonder that communism is strong in such countries.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, sought to prove that the land tax has now fulfilled the purpose for which it was originally imposed and that, therefore, it is no longer necessary. If only for the reason that the retention of land tax would prevent the accumulation of more land in fewer hands, the Government should retain it.
M.’r. TuRNBULL - The land tax never served any useful purpose.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is a reactionary. His attitude of mind is similar to that of those who opposed the first imposition of a land tax in this country. Spiritually, he is heir to the views and philosophies of the squatters who, in this Parliament in 1910, attacked the Fisher Government’s land legislation because they said that it was confiscatory in character; that it was socialistic. However, it has remained on the statute-book for the past 42 years. Although the Lyons Government surrendered to big city interests during the depression years and substantially reduced the land tax, no anti-Labour government has been foolish enough up to date to attempt to repeal that legislation. Certainly, no government has been as foolish as this Government has been in introducing legislation of this kind in order to hand out largesse to its friends at a time when the country is in financial difficulties. I shall deal presently with the people who will get the benefit of the abolition of the land tax, and honorable members will then perceive that among them are not many farmers or even squatters. Most of them are city people, such as the owners of newspaper buildings, banks and big emporiums. They are all very wealthy people, who, after all, do not produce much. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has indicated, said that in 1940-41 75 per cent, of the burden of the land tax was carried by those who own city land. His exact words about the incidence of the land tax in 1951-52 were -
When the figures become available for the financial year 1951-52, it is possible that they will show that the proportion mentioned is even greater.
I suggest that perhaps 80 per cent, of the revenue from the land tax is now being contributed by city land-owners. I wrote to the Treasurer and asked him when the figures mentioned by him for 1951-52 would be available, because I thought that they should be available for use in this debate. The Treasurer replied to me in a letter under yesterday’s date, the final paragraph of which reads -
The Commonwealth Statistician does not think he will be in a position to tabulate the advices, when complete, until early in the New Year and possibly later as his machine capacity will be fully engaged until that time. It would seem clear, therefore, that there is no possibility of obtaining statistical details of the 1951-52 assessments” until March, 1953, at the earliest, and probably about May, 1952.
Therefore, the Parliament will not be able to ascertain until at least three months after the legislation has been passed, precisely who will be getting the benefit from this hand-out, who will share the loot and who is being given this free gift at a time of grave financial difficulty.
– All these land valuations are secret.
– I understand that. However, I discovered that I could not get the information that I required from the Treasurer. I had already made inquiries from the Commissioner of Taxation about the matter, and had been informed that his next report on taxation will not be available for a considerable time. I then sought information from the town clerks of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and. Adelaide about the unimproved value of the land held by banking institutions, newspapers and emporiums in those cities. ‘[Quorum formed.] The unimproved value of the land held by various private banking institutions in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, as detailed by the municipal authorities, is shown in the table below -
Therefore, it will be seen that the banks owned unimproved land in those four restricted areas to the total value of £7,443,000.
– That is a minimum valuation ?
– Yes, it is a valuation by municipal authorities. Honorable members should also bear in mind that the unimproved land owned by the banks in these four capital cities was used for head offices and city branchesonly. This measure will remit a total of £275,362 in land tax on the total value of the land held by those seven banks in the four capital cities. I suggest that that is a very nice hand-back to the people who financed this Government into power. Such action by the banks was1 a very good investment. They certainly cast their bread upon the waters and got a considerable benefit later. In the- case of the- English, Scottish and Australian; Bank, and the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited, the remission will amount to £90,000. That sum will be paid to shareholders who have never seen Australia. Not one bank clerk will get a penny benefit; it will all go to absentee landlords. I recently examined Finance Bulletin No. 41 of 1949-50, issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and I found 23 pages’ of statistics which dealt with the very large private trading banks. Throughout those pages there was no information at all about the. unimproved value of the land held by them. The value of premises, furniture and sites is. shown at approximately £14,000,000, but no attempt has been made to indicate the value of the unimproved land hidden in that figure. The real value should have been shown at £40,000,000’. The figures that I have quoted show that the unimproved value of the land owned by the seven large private banks in the four capital cities excludes the unimproved value of the land occupied by almost the whole 2,372 branches that were in operation on the 30th June, 1950, throughout Australia. The banking institutions represent one section of this Government’s supporters who will receive a. tremendous benefit under this legislation. When the next report of the Commissioner of Taxation is published, it should show the- unimproved value of the land held by banks, insurance companies, city emporiums, newspaper offices and all big institutions which will derive most, of the benefits from the Treasurer’s proposed remission of the land tax.
– Then the honorable member can nationalize them.
– No, we do not want to nationalize them ; we want to make them pay a proper contribution to the Treasurer’s revenue in. order that the government of the country may be properly carried on. The Labour party believes that the burden of taxation should be borne by those best able to bear it. That is a proper canon of taxation and the Labour party has applied it whenever it has been in power. We do not believe in taxing the labour power of the worker, which represents his capital assets, with income tax and, at the same time, excluding other persons who derive benefit, first, from community settlement, which gives value to their land; and, secondly, from the labour of the workers whom they employ to produce the wealth that they are destined to own.
There are twelve big emporiums in the four capital cities to which I have referred, and the total unimproved value of the land of those emporiums is £6,613,000. David Jones Limited owns one of them. The amount of benefit that these emporiums will derive from the bill is £244,000. The eleven daily newspapers in the same four capital cities will benefit by £42,500. No wonder they support the Government and say that the land tax ought to be abolished ! They will be richly rewarded, but the masses of the people, who are supposed to be benefiting under the terms of the Treasurer’s budget, will receive practically nothing. A single man will receive a remission of 2s. a week in his income tax, and a married man with a wife and three children will receive a remission of a mere 6d. a week. This is what the Government calls fair play and justice! This is the record on which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wants to be judged at the Flinders by-election! This is the case on which the right honorable gentleman has based his extraordinary statement that the Government has carried out its promises!
– Its secret promises.
– Yes, but the right honorable gentleman tries to make it appear that the Government has carried out its public promises. Tax remissions to big land-holders are not part of the policy that the Government parties submitted to the people for their aproval
– “ For he that hath, to him shall be given.”
– I made that quotation from the Gospel according to St. Mark on the last occasion on which I spoke on the subject of taxation in this chamber. The reference is taken from chapter 4, verse 25, if I recollect correctly. A similar reference is contained in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and I have more than a nodding acquaintance with the evangelists.
It is obvious that this Government has failed the people in regard to land tax as it has failed them in regard to everything else. It is obvious that the Government is not concerned with increasing production so much as with rewarding it3 backers and supporters and with squaring off to somebody who may be able to help it at a later stage. The bank clerks employed by the banks that will benefit from this legislation will receive no benefit, and the people who trade with the banks will receive no benefit through the medium of lower interest rates. The money will go to those who own shares in the banks, and in the newspapers and the city emporiums. For the reasons that I have stated - and I believe that I have proved my case for the Labour party - the Opposition opposes the bill and, at a later stage, when it is in power, it will carry out its election promises to the people.
– The honorable gentleman will indeed be with the evangelists then.
– We shall not need to have the angels on our side. The Government was unwise to introduce this bill. It has acted in a manner that is detrimental to the best interests of Aus tralia. We shall take the story of its misdeeds from this chamber into the Flinders electorate and will tell the little orchardists and the small farmers that they will not benefit from this legislation and that the only persons there who will benefit from it are men like Sir Keith Murdoch, Sir Norman Brookes, and Mr. Grimwade, who is one of the Government’s appointees to the Commonwealth Bank Board. When the Labour party returns to power, it will dispense justice to everybody. It will not do what this Government is doing with this legislation and with all its other legislation, and as its predecessors of the same political colour have always done, which has been to follow the traditional policy of conservatism to grease the fat pig.
– I sincerely congratulate the Government upon its decision to relieve the land-owners of Australia of land tax. This imposition has been the equivalent of a tax upon the tools of trade of carpenters and other artisans. The tax was introduced by the Fisher Government, whose leader represented the electorate of Wide Bay, for the ostensible purpose of breaking up large estates. Its effect now is to impose an unjust burden upon persons who have come within the clutches of the Land Tax Act, both in the city and in the country. Members of the Labour party in this Parliament, when the original legislation was debated, declared unequivocally that the object of the tax was to break; up large estates so that land might be made available to men who wished to engage in primary production. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said, the greater part of the revenue from land tax is now drawn from city properties. Obviously, its original purpose is no longer being served. In 1910, when the Land Tax Act was passed, it was said that the tax would release land for settlement by immigrants whom the government of the day hoped to bring to Australia. Then, as now, it was said that the great estates were held in freehold. In fact, they are held on lease.
The tax has failed to accomplish any valuable results. It has merely done an injustice to a section of the people. That injustice is easily revealed. At the time when the tax was first levied, Australia had a population of 3,000,000. A very small area of the land was alienated then, as is the case to-day. Most of that land has been alienated hy big companies, which have erected buildings and developed their properties in the process of carrying out their businesses. Those companies were organized by people of the kind that we invited to come to Australia in order to help to develop the country. The honorable member for Melbourne bitterly attacked the banking institutions. He said that certain banks which he named had a combined wealth of £14,000,000 and that the unimproved value of their land was £7,200,000. He did not explain to the House that, although land tax is levied on unimproved values, the hanks have expended vast sums of money in order to improve their properties. His bitterness was typical of the attitude of the Labour party towards persons who have progressed in life. Honorable members opposite want to trample on the individual who, by his energy and foresight, has succeeded in extending his land holdings and expanding his business undertakings They want to divide and redistribute the property of companies like Anthony Horden and Sons Limited.
The honorable member for Melbourne referred to twelve emporiums and implied that they were owned by twelve individuals who would be rewarded under the terms of the bill in return for help that they had given to the Government. I went to the trouble of securing lists of shareholders in the companies that own four of those emporiums. There were 24,300 shareholders, yet the honorable gentleman claimed that the twelve emporiums would escape the liability to pay £244,000 in land tax. I am positive that this concession to city emporiums, banks, and other great institutions, which carry on the trade and commerce of the nation, will be distributed among many persons. The shareholders of those great institutions should bear in mind that the Labour party, if it ever regains office, will re-impose this unfair and unjust tax. Each State imposes a land tax-
– It is a tax on wealth, not on land.
– That statement is ridiculous. It is the unimproved value of the land that is assessed. Each State government imposes a land tax. Every local authority levies similar tax. A person who .buys a block in a country district, and slaves upon it in order to grow primary products, is the real worker. He creates wealth. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) does not understand that, and he is certainly not prepared to qualify for the description of a “real worker “. However, the real producer of wealth, to whom I refer, may invest his savings in a city emporium which renders a valuable service to the community by providing food and clothing. Why must that investor be hounded?
– What about the wealthy companies ?
– I know why the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is so bitter about this proposal for the abolition of the land tax. The impost was levied by the Fisher Government in 1910 with the object of breaking up large estates. I have made some diligent research into this matter, and I find that in 1908 only 4.82 per cent, of the land was alienated, and only 2.1 per cent, was in the process of alienation. The remainder of the land was owned by the Crown. Some of it was leased, but 53 per cent, was vacant. The iniquitous land tax was imposed by the Fisher Government in 1910 with the object of breaking up large estates. Yet to-day, only 7.54 per cent, of this great country is alienated, and only 1.91 per cent, is in the process of alienation. The bulk of the land is still owned by the Crown. The land tax victimizes a small section of the community who own land, and pay taxes on it, not only to the Commonwealth, but, also to the States and local authorities. The land-owner is also taxed on what he produces from the land, and pays a tax in respect of his vehicles that transport the produce over the public roads. The land-owner pays a number of taxes that were not in existence when the Fisher Government introduced the land tax.
Members of the Opposition may not be aware that one of the objectives of the Fisher Government in introducing the land tax was to cause many people to leave the cities. The cry at that time was, “Unlock the land”. The honorable member for Melbourne used the same stupid phrase in his speech to-day. The land tax has been imposed for 48 years. Has it achieved the result for which it was introduced? Has it unlocked the land? Has it prevented people from crowding into the great cities? I point out that 36.35 per cent, of the population lived in the six capital cities in 1908. To-day, despite the operation of the land tax, which was to encourage decentralization, 50.72 per cent, of the people live in the great cities. Four years ago, 50.59 per cent, of the population lived in the metropolitan areas of the six capital cities and 17.42 per cent, in the provincial towns. Yet the land tax waa introduced ostensibly for the purpose of bringing about decentralization of population ! Members of the Labour party hate the person who owns anything at all. The whole of their attention is concentrated on the people in the large cities, who are their principal supporters. They would hound out of existence then men who own land in the country, and whose efforts make it possible for other sections of the community to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
The honorable member for Melbourne castigated the great emporiums because they own land in the large cities of Australia. However, those emporiums owe a good deal of their success to the investments of country people. They do not invest their capital in other countries, but patriotically employ it for the development of their own country. They have invested their savings in the great emporiums and other institutions which are essential to our trade and commerce. I am proud to oppose the land tax, and I support this bill with the greatest pleasure. Every land-owner realizes that the Labour party must not be allowed to regain office. Should it ever occupy the treasury bench in this Parliament again, it will introduce legislation for the reimposition of the land tax.
Members of the Opposition do not appear to realize that the land tax is unfair because the value of land in the large cities has risen to an unprecedented level in recent times. Large buildings were erected by companies on city blocks years ago. It is not their fault, or their gain, that the value of the land has risen fourfold in recent years, and they do not propose to “ cash in “ on the higher values by selling the land. They already pay tax to the local authorities. Why should a Labour government steal some of the money from local-governing bodies, and use it to promote its policy for the socialization of industry? I claim that the real purpose of the Fisher Government in introducing the land tax was to try to regain the 4.82 per cent, of the land that had been alienated. At that time road, rail and shipping services were not comparable with those available to-day. Since 1910, the progress of land development has been wonderful. Yet the Labour party desires to deprive the land-owners of something that they have gained by their own hard work. The honorable member for Melbourne believes that people should not have settled on the land under pioneering conditions, developed their properties, reared their families, and overcome the difficulties arising from lack of schools and transport. I am pleased to support the bill. As I stated earlier, a number of taxes, including the pay-roll tax, the sales tax, and the income tax and social services contribution were not in existence when the Fisher Government introduced the land tax. In my opinion, it is high time that the land tax was abolished because so many other crushing burdens have been imposed upon landowners in the last 48 years. If any members of the Labour party do not believe my statement, let them purchase some blocks of land. They will quickly find that I have truthfully stated the position.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), in the latter part of his speech, gave one of the major reasons why the Labour party opposes this bill. He pointed out that landowners, in common with every other section of the community, pay sales tax, the income tax and social services contribution, and, perhaps, the pay-roll tax. A reduction of the sales tax, for instance, would ‘confer a greater benefit on the community than the abolition of the land tax-. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has pointed out that the abolition of the land tax means that the Government will remit an amount of £7,000,000 principally to persons who cannot, by any stretch of the. imagination, be regarded as a needy section. The abolition of the land tax will not confer any substantial benefit on the poor. The Government cannot spread taxation relief equitably in this way, whereas a reduction of the pay-roll tax, sales tax, or the income and social services ! contribution would confer a benefit upon the public generally.
This bill is another example of the Government’s inconsistency, confusion and sharp changes of policy which so completely mystify the Australian people. Last year, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced legislation to amend the Land Tax Assessment Act in some mi’nor respects. The right honorable gentleman pointed out, in his budget speech on the 26fh September, 1951, that the Government intended to take the current unimproved values of land as the basis for the land tax. Hp to that time, the tax had been imposed upon the pegged values, which had been the basis of land tax assessments since the financial year 1941-42. I had the honour to he the spokesman for the ‘Opposition in the debate on the amending legislation, and I told the Government that, in my view, the current values were artificial. As has so often proved the case, the opinion expressed by an Opposition speaker was right, and the stand taken by the Government was wrong. I claimed that it was the wrong time to make the change from the basis of the pegged values to the artificially created values. The Government did not heed my warning, and proceeded with the bill. According to the Government, the sole purpose for the adoption of the changed basis was to extract more revenue from land-holders in the country, and the owners of city properties alike. In his reply to the debate the Treasurer said that the Opposition had asked him why the Government had adopted this changed basis of land valuation at a time when prices for primary products were abnormally high. He replied that the reason was obvious ; that it was designed to obtain additional revenue, and that it was useless to hide the fact. The right honorable gentleman said that he would be delighted if he could abolish all taxation. That was the type of inane remark that the Opposition has come to expect from honorable members on the Government side when they endeavour to justify their policy and defend their lack of administrative capacity.
I invite honorable members to trace the course of the Government’s conflicting policy on the land tax. Last .year the Government introduced a measure touching upon the land tax. It did not seek the abolition of the tax as it might have done. It made an alteration to meet, in some degree, a mistake that it had made nearly six months .previously in providing for a land tax exemption unit of £S,750, instead of £5,000 that had ruled earlier. That manoeuvre was a deliberate attempt to extract more revenue from Australian land-holders in both the city and the country areas. Now the Government proposes to abolish the land tax altogether. In order to understand the full import of the decision that was made by the Government and to determine its future policy, honorable members must study the circumstances of the time over a period of twelve months. First, a changed basis of land valuation brought in vastly increased revenue. Then the minimum basis of land tax was altered and finally, in the circumstances of to-day, the Government proposes the complete abolition of the land tax, and claims a large measure of credit. The abolition of the land tax coincides with the Government’s announcement that it intends to alter the basis of collection of taxation between the State and Federal governments. In addition to its pursuit of a completely contradictory policy that has confused the people, the Government has sought to gain political advantage at the expense of the State governments. It is trying to ally the present move to abolish land taxation with its attempt to return to the State governments the collection of ordinary income tax revenue. The Government has issued a clear invitation to the State governments to move into the land tax field as it moves out. It is trying to make the State governments extract land tax from the land-owners and so bear the odium of imposing extra taxation. Its actions on income tax and land tax follow too closely upon its efforts to place on the State governments the blame for the failures of various loans, the imposition of a variety of taxes and the ineptitude of the federal system of government.
The honorable member for Wide Bay has stated that the land tax has failed to achieve the purpose for which it was framed. The land tax was not designed for a single purpose at all. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was the Treasurer of the day when the federal land tax was introduced, said that it had a dual purpose. It was meant to raise revenue and to break up large estates. To some extent it has achieved both purposes, though not to the fullest degree. This year the land tax makes a substantial contribution to government revenue. No one can argue successfully that the land tax has completely failed or that it has completely succeeded. The Government should not make a deliberate move to abolish it without a proper examination of the whole field of taxation. We can go beyond the general statements of honorable members, including the honorable member for Wide Bay, that the system has failed, and study a valuable work, Economic Aspects of Australian Land Taxation, by Professor J. M. Garland, MA. This work was submitted as a thesis for a Doctorate of Commerce and its publication was made possible by the award of the Harbison.Higinbotham Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. After reviewing the earlier principles upon which land taxation was based, Professor Garland stated in the preface -
The Commonwealth land tax was born in the same experimental decade, and under the same radical star. It was similarly a tents - tire measure of economic control, and it waa likewise winged with optimism. But it ha* never soared to the same heights of achievement. As an instrument of control it ha* been fairly effective; but it was carelessly contrived and heavy-handed in its application; and its successes have been rather ponderously attained. So it cannot bc accorded the same degree of admiration as its contemporaries; but, for all that, it still remains a source of considerable possibilities.
On page 185 of the book, the writer continues -
But the Commonwealth land tax lias assuredly not failed. The purposes towards which it was directed are being slowly realized. There are no spectacular results; but there is a record of steady achievement.
That extract is from an authoritative work that was written in 1934 by a man who made a study of the subject and for it he obtained a doctorate and a scholarship to publish the work. It seems clear, therefore, that although we can never define exactly what has been achieved by a measure of this type, in the the opinion of independent researchers it has had a considerable degree of success. The exact degree cannot be established definitely because many changing circumstances decide the progress that will be made. Wars and depressions and a variety of Government measures will falsify any estimate. But in the opinion of the authority whom I have quoted some considerable success has been attained and it provides a basis upon which a much more effective measure might be framed.
The honorable member for Wide Bay, in the course of a. defensive form of attack, claimed that the land tax was merely a socialistic measure or the child of socialistic parents. That, he added, was the only reason for the Labour party’s opposition to the present bill. The truth is that the land tax was introduced by Liberal governments in the various States before the federal land tax was imposed. In the book that I have already quoted the author states that -
Although the most uncompromising land tax legislation was passed, in flue course, by Labour - the Commonwealth land tax of 1910 and the Queensland tax of 1915 - the first land taxes in Australia were the work of Liberal statesmen . . .
Liberal statesmen probably existed in those days, though they appear to exist no longer. The statement in the book continues -
The Liberals, of course, were inspired by very much the same motives as Labour. They, too, were on the side of agriculture rather than the squatters.
Apparently it is no longer true that the Liberals in the National Parliament are on the side of agriculture rather than on the side of the squatters. As honorable members on this side of the House have pointed out, this measure will give no benefit to the small farmers, but in some cases it will confer considerable benefits upon the squatters. The Liberals appear to have reverted to type and the squatters seem to have regained their support. The first legislative enactment in Victoria came in 1S87, when a land tax was placed on country properties to vary with sheep-carrying capacity. It was not strictly on unimproved value. A Liberal Minister introduced th» measure in the following terms : -
When honorable members see the enormous dimensions of the large estates and the extent to which the territory, by passing into a few hands . . . has become monopolised, they will not have any difficulty in understanding that that state of affairs means . . . the exclusion, from an immense proportion of the best and most fertile parts of the colony. of what would otherwise be a large population settled on the soil.
It is probably true that the situation is not so extreme to-day but having regard to the population in 1952 compared to that of 1887, the larger holdings are less justified now than they were then. Other Liberal Treasurers have brought down similar legislation. Mr. Watt, who was then, I believe, Treasurer of Victoria and later Federal Treasurer, introduced a measure in 1909 and he made a statement that is described in this book as “ probably the most distinguished pronouncement on the subject of land taxation that had ever been heard in Australia”. Mr. Watt stated -
This bill seeks to impose a progressive tax upon unimproved land values, first of all with the object of promoting conditions favourable to more extensive agricultural settlement, and, secondly with the object of raising additional revenue.
Again the dual purpose that actuated the Labour Premier when the land tax was first introduced is apparent. Mr. Wattcontinued -
In seeking to place in this bill . . . such conditions upon the owners of land as will induce them to put it to a higher productive use, or sell it to those who will use it to better advantage, the Government are animated by the conviction that a man who holds land out of use, or in comparative idleness, while others are searching for acres to cultivate, is opposed to the progressive development of the State. We are also desirous of putting a fair share of the charges of Government upon the soil of Victoria, and of restoring to society some portion of the increment which the expenditure and enterprise of the State, and the consequent settlement of population, have created.
That is the basis of the Henry George programme - that land values created by the State should bear a large portion of the charges that the State must impose for the provision of goods and services. It is clear that land tax was introduced for two purposes both by State governments and by the Australian Government to provide revenue and to break up large estates. It is certainly true, and is borne out by the work to which I have referred, that in large measure its purposes have been achieved. There is, therefore, no justification at all for the Government to abolish the land tax at this stage. Had the Government surveyed the field of taxation to which the honorable member for Wide Bay referred, it might have found many taxes that could have been reduced to better purpose. The Government might have raised the minimum basis on which the pay-roll tax is imposed because that tax was introduced when wages were much lower than they are to-day. It might have reduced the sales tax or a host of other taxes which are regressive in incidence. The Government has deliberately selected this tax for abolition because it seeks to push the States into a worse position. All the arguments of the Government tend to show that it cannot raise sufficient revenue to make worth-while payments to pensioners and to those who receive repatriation and other benefits.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting very wide of the repeal of the land tax.
– I am dealing with £7,000,000 which will be returned to a section of the Australian community by this measure. With deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that I should be permitted to develop the argument that that sum would be used to better advantage if it were given to one section of the people than it would be if it were returned to another section. I believe that the Government should use this £7,000,000 of revenue in a manner that would be of benefit to a wide section of the Australian people. It could be spread over almost the whole range of Australian society.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable gentleman that the bill is designed, not to enable the Government to give money to anybody, but to repeal an act under which the Commonwealth collects certain revenue. The question of the disposal of that revenue does not arise, because, if this bill be passed, it will not be collected.
– The Government, instead of abolishing the land tax, could make reductions of other taxes, which would be of far greater benefit to a much wider and much more needy section of the community, and would have a much greater beneficial effect upon the Australian economy. It could retain this progressive tax, which has, in a large measure, attained its objective, and use the revenue from it, which is paid by wealthy people in high positions, to finance increased social services benefits.
There is no doubt that the Government is being subjected to continuous pressure by the people who expended vast sums to put it into office. They are pressing for a return upon their investment in the Government, which again is showing evidence of its willingness to settle the bill that has been presented to it.
.- We have listened to some extraordinary arguments during the last few weeks. In debates upon taxation measures, the Opposition has said repeatedly that taxes should be decreased, but now, when the House is discussing a measure designed to repeal a certain tax, it says that that tax should be, not abolished, but increased. In these matters, the Labour party does not know where it stands. When it advocates the reduction of certain taxes, it does not suggest that other taxes should be increased, but, when a measure of this kind is introduced, which will give very necessary relief to many taxpayers, it does not attempt to be consistent in its arguments, and says that the tax which is proposed to be abolished should, in fact, be increased. That is nonsense and political hypocrisy.
The land tax was imposed originally for the specific purpose of breaking up large rural estates. I emphasize the word “ rural Despite the statements by the Opposition that it was intended also to be a revenue-producing device, I say that its real purpose was to break up large estates. The Commonwealth has derived some revenue from it, but it was not imposed for revenue purposes. In 1910, when the tax was first imposed, governments were not as dictatorial or as thick-skinned as they are to-day, when they are prepared to acquire compulsorily from the citizens of this country anything that they want. Private property is not sacrosanct in Australia any longer, and sometimes one wonders for how long our personal affairs will continue to be sacrosanct. In 1910, governments approached national problems in a different manner. -The land tax amounted only to a form of gentle pressure to encourage people who owned large estates to break them up. No one with any common sense will deny that the tax has failed completely to achieve the purpose for which it was imposed. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), whilst maintaining that it had not failed, admitted that it had not succeeded completely. Knowing the honorable gentleman, we realize that that statement was tantamount to an admission that the tax has not been a success and, therefore, that its continued imposition cannot be justified. We must remember that,, at the present time, the States have absolute power to resume or otherwise acquire any land that they want, and that they are exercising that power whenever they desire to do so. Therefore, there is no need to retain the land tax as a means of breaking up large estates. Some States have been reluctant to break up such estates, and have not followed the example of New South Wales and of one other State in relation to acquiring land for the purposes of war service land settlement. As the States have power to acquire the land that they need, there is no real need for pressure to be exerted by the Commonwealth through taxation measures.
It was never intended that the land tax should be levied upon suburban, industrial and commercial properties. When the tax was proposed, emphasis was placed upon rural properties. It wa3 never intended that it should hit city properties, and big industrial or commercial undertakings. The Opposition wants to use it as a means by which to socialize industry. The wish of the Labour party to perpetuate the tax is based upon a deep-rooted desire to bring about every possible form of socialization in this country, and to take away the liberty of the subject. There is a tremendous difference between the value of real estate in Australia to-day and in 1910, when the land tax was instituted. This is a growing country, and conditions are now very different from those that prevailed then. Most city properties in every State of the Commonwealth are subject to this insidious tax, although it was never intended that they should be. There” is hardly a property, industrial or otherwise, in any Australian city that is not subject to this tax* That remark applies to commercial premises in nearcity suburbs, and also, having regard to the increase in the value of land through^ out Australia, to almost every farm of a reasonable size. Therefore, it is apparent that we are departing considerably from the original purposes for which the tax was imposed.
It is true, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has suggested, that the tax affects only a rela- tively small number of taxpayers. In many instances, land tax is paid by a company in which thousands of people have an interest. I believe that millions of people in Australia are affected, by the tax, because of it? affect upon the shareholders of companies which are subject to it. The tax affects, not only the company itself, but also the shareholders of the company. Although a shareholder in a company, which is subject to the land tax, may not, as an individual, hold sufficient land to render him liable to land tax, the fact that he owns shares in the company may, and in many instances does, bring him within the scope of the tax. It is not true to say that the tax affects only a few rich people. The burden of it is borne by the consumers of goods produced in this country. The abolition of the tax would do something, to reduce production costs, especially those of undertakings in the large cities which manufacture consumer goods. The relief given to such undertakings by this measure will, in many instances, make a considerable difference to the cost of production of consumer goods. The effect of the tax has been to increase the cost of producing goods of that kind, and the burden of the increase has been borne by consumers. It is nonsensical for the Opposition to argue that the abolition of the tax would benefit only a few wealthy people. In this matter, as in others, the Opposition has based its case upon class hatred and class distinction.
The revenue derived from the land tax is comparatively small. It has ranged from £1,500,000 to £7,000,000 a year. But, despite the small revenue, a Commonwealthwide organization has been established for the purpose of administering and collecting the tax. There is a deputy commissioner in each of the capital cities of this country. The tax should be abolished, even if the only ground for its abolition were that it would reduce the overall cost of government in this country. But an argument of that kind does not appeal to the Labour party, because honorable gentlemen opposite do not want government departments to be streamlined. Such departments are easily established in present circumstances. If a government gives a man a table and a chair, and asks him to do some form of government work, almost overnight another department is established, and eventually it assumes Commonwealth-wide proportions. I say that the revenue derived from the land tax does not justify the cost of collection. Therefore, the tax should be abolished, if only for the reason that it would reduce the costs of government.
– Not a penny would be saved by the abolition of the tax.
– A considerable sum would be saved. Excellent officers who are engaged now upon the collection and administration of the land tax could use their specialized knowledge to much better advantage in other government departments. No one can deny that land tux valuers and assessors are engaged in activities that are a duplication of the duties performed by similar officials employed in other fields. That is another reason why this tax should be abolished. It is not only a duplication of tax, but also a duplication of employment, since every State except New South Wales levies land tax, and there are State land tax assessors as well as federal land tax assessors at work. I contend that not only should the Commonwealth desert the land tax field, and not, as the honorable member for Perth has suggested, merely pass it back to the States, but that the States themselves should also desert it. They would do so if they knew the right thing to do. Land taxation should be the exclusive right of local government authorities. We all know that the local government is languishing in Australia because it has not been encouraged by the Labour party, which is in control of most of the State governments. The Labour party has discouraged local government because local government is the basis of British democracy as we know it, and because its encouragement would not be consonant with the scheme of socialization for which the Labour party stands. Local government revenue is obtained exclusively from land tax, so, in fact, we have duplication of taxes in New South Wales- and triplication of land taxes in all the other States, where federal, State and local land taxes are collected. There is a similar triplication or duplication of the officials engaged in the assessment and collection of such taxes. What an unnecessary cost of government for a minor revenue of only £7,000,000 a year! It is just so much utter rot. The arguments that the Labour party has introduced into this debate leave me cold. I hope that the people will note the Labour party’s threat to reimpose this tax if it is returned to office.
– It is a promise.
– Then that promise tears aside the cloak from the Labour party and discloses it as a socialist party which is designing to bring about complete socialization regardless of the cost of government.
– That will not lose us any votes at the next general election.
– Will it not? The honorable member does not understand this matter and does not realize that there are more people interested in it than he appreciates. The Government is determined to reduce administration costs as quickly as possible, and the abolition of land tax is one of the processes of desocialization by which that aim will be realized. The Government does not stand for socialization and will do everything in its power to give freedom back to the people.
The whole emphasis in the speeches of the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Perth was on class distinction and class hatred. Members of the Labour party play on class divisions. They tell the worker that we are trying to protect the rich people.
– It is true!
– It is not true. This tax affects the little man, the worker, as much as it affects any rich person or any firm. The honorable member for Melbourne claimed that too much land was held by too few people. What ait extraordinary statement from a socialist who wants all the land to be held by governments! The policy of the Labour party is government ownership. It wants governments to control the building of all houses and own all real estate. It would not be a case, then, of too few people owning too much land, but a case of all land being held, by the socialist government. The people would be denied the right to own land.
– Then there would be no work for real estate agents.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to cease interjecting. Several of them are very guilty.
– The honorable member for Melbourne said that no man who owned land could do as he liked. I know there is a social implication in the ownership of land, but if honorable members were to analyse the honorable member for Melbourne’s statement and then relate it to his political philosophy, they would realize that his idea is to deny the right of people to own land at all. That is the genesis of the idea, at least, and it has run through all the speeches that have come from honorable members opposite and will show forth in the speeches 3till to come from honorable members opposite who will follow me in this debate. That principle is inherent in the Labour party’s policy.
– Then what would be the use of Torrens Title?
– That is a pertinent question, “We are proud of the existence of the Torrens Title system which allows a person to have in documentary form an indisputable title to land. The honorable member for Perth has said that the ruling values for land are not real. I think he was trespassing into territory of which he knows little. His implication that the real values are those that were ‘ pegged by the socialist Government of New South “Wales at the 1942 level is ridiculous nonsense. This country is progressing and real estate values are not likely to recede much from the present levels. I make that statement with some knowledge of the subject. In any event, the values on which rates are imposed are in conformity with all ‘other values and costs in the community. As a matter of fact, a person who owns land to-day has to pay increased taxes and increased costs in relation to it, in conformity with the increased cost of living. The levies of the tax gatherers, and the prices of amenities and services provided by local government, have all increased by almost 100 per cent, since 1942, yet the honorable member for Perth has had the temerity to contend that property values should be stabilized at the 1942 levels. Could anybody imagine anything so unreal? But the whole approach of the Labour party to this matter is completely unreal. I say that this tax is a bad and unjust tax which should not have been continued once it was realized that it had not served the purpose for which it was originally introduced. No government except a socialist government would have the temerity to reimpose this insidious and unfair tax on the people once it has been abolished.
– The reasons advanced by honorable members opposite for the abolition of the land tax are that it is a bad tax, that it was originally introduced only for the purpose of breaking up large estates, that it has failed to achieve that abjective and, consequently, there being no further use for it, that it should now be abolished. I wish to enlighten the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the views expressed by leaders of the Labour party when the legislation which first imposed the tax was introduced in 1910. It is apparent that honorable members opposite have not read the remarks of the men who led the Labour party in those days. For the enlightenment of Government supporters, I shall quote from Hansard the remarks of four Labour party leaders of those days, three of whom, in fact, became Labour Prime Ministers. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, speaking in the debate on the Land Tax Assessment Bill on the 1.6th August, 191.0, said - -I hope that within a few years this Parliament will face this question in its broadest aspect and see whether it cannot do something to prevent the unearned increment from falling into the hands of private persons, because in my opinion it belongs to the whole community.
Unimproved value taxation is a sound principle and while the incidence will tend to break up large estates and help to develop the country from an economic point of view without any embarrassing conditions, it is a proper kind of taxation for the purpose of raising Commonwealth revenue.
I repeat that statement.
It is a proper kind of taxation for the purpose of raising Commonwealth revenue.
Mr. Fisher continued ;
Honorable members will see that the taxation applies, not only to large estates, but to city and town areas, and therefore could not be justified alone on the ground of breaking up large estates.
One of our great hopes is that it will convert the larger areas into smaller areas and bring about closer settlement. The other is that it will help to raise the necessary revenue to enable the Commonwealth Government to carry on the great service with which they have been entrusted.
Mr. Charlton, who later became Leader of the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, speaking in the same debate on the 1st September, 1910, said -
There has been much splitting of straws during this debate, as to whether this bill is designed to produce revenue or to break up large estates. I do not intend to mince matters. Personally 1 believe in it for both purposes.
That statement clearly indicates that that honorable gentleman believed it to have both purposes. The present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who later became a Labour Prime Minister, speaking on the same measure on the 30th August, 1910, supported the bill in a speech that lasted for one hour 35 minutes. He said that he believed the time had come when the Parliament of the Commonwealth should realize that land tax was sound in principle, not only for the (purpose of breaking up large estates, but also for the purpose of raising revenue. He concluded his speech with the following remarks : -
When one has been lying down on the soft lounges gazing dreamily at the seductive blue and violet light melting through the coloured glass, thinking of nothing in .particular, a cold douche is a very necessary and salutary thing. It brings one buck to the world we live in and braces up our pleasure-hardened nerves.
Those remarks and the advice they contain might well be applied to the members of the Government who, with their pleasure-hardened nerves, seem to have forgotten that they have a responsibility to the ordinary people who provide the sinews that enable governments to carry on and who, in fact, bear the major proportion of the costs of administration. The honorable member for Bennelong said that land tax was not introduced for the purpose of raising revenue. The passages which I have just quoted from speeches that were made in this Parliament at that time make it perfectly clear that the primary objective of the Fisher Labour Government in introducing that measure was to raise revenue. The honorable member for Bennelong also said that, to-day, governments have no respect for private ownership. Surely, he does not suggest that any one can rightly claim to have private ownership of land. No one who believes in the teachings of Christ can claim to have a divine right to own land any more than he can claim to have private ownership of Heaven. Land was created for the benefit of all mankind and no one can rightly claim that God created this or that piece of land for him alone, or that God created land for the use of one nation alone. If such a proposition were correct, we should have no right to bring a single immigrant to this country. The honorable member for Bennelong said that. Australians are very proud of the freehold system of tenure that exists in this country. I do not think that we have much to be proud of in that respect, because freehold titles in this country are based upon conquest by force. The land which is now held under freehold title was originally taken by force from the aborigines. If conquest by force justifies the right of private property in land, then another nation, if it took this country by force, could claim with equal justification to have a divine right to own Australia. Persons have a right only to occupy land; and they retain that right only so long as they utilize the land to the maximum degree for the benefit of the community. No one can rightly say of a piece of land, “ This is my private property, and I have the right to use it or not use it as I please “. Land has been created for the benefit of all mankind.
The honorable member for Bennelong said that the States possess power to break up large estates and, therefore, it is unnecessary for the Australian Governnent to retain the land tax for that purpose. Apparently, the honorable member laboured under the impression that the tax was introduced solely for the purpose of breaking up large estates. I believe that I have now convinced him that it was introduced primarily for the purpose of raising revenue. Indeed, land tax is the most legitimate means available fo a government to raise revenue. Such a tax can be directly related to the benefits that the taxpayer receives as a member of the community. Values of city properties are attributable, mainly, not to (die efforts of their owners but to those of the community in which the properties are situated. Some communities are more populous, or progressive, than others, or provide advantages that are not available elsewhere. The honorable member for Bennelong endeavoured to make party political capital in discussing this subject. He said that the Australian Labour party’s policy was to abolish all private property. That is not correct. On the contrary, Labour advocates the imposition of a tax on the unimproved value of land to a degree that will make it unprofitable for a person to withhold from use, or to fail to use to the maximum, land that he possesses. By that means, persons who own large areas of rural land can be forced to utilize it to the maximum; or, alternatively, other, persons, who are prepared to utilize it to its full capacity, can be given the opportunity to acquire possession of it. Similarly, owners of city properties, the value of which has increased as a result of the expenditure of public money in the provision of footpaths, roads, communications, and other essential community services, can be obliged to bear a just proportion of that expenditure. The honorable member for Bennelong also said that members of the Australian Labour party advocate the retention of the land tax because they advocate complete socialization of all private property. As I have already said, no person can rightly claim to own anything unless he can show that he has produced that which he claims to own or that he has purchased it from the person who produced it. No person can produce land or produce a title that would show that he purchased land from its Creator. The Australian Labour warty advocates the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange only in instances in which such means are used for the exploitation of the community as a whole. Labour has never advocated the abolition of private property; hut it believes that services that are essential to the well-being of a community, or which are used by their owners to exploit the community, should be socialized. My colleagues and I make uo apology for advocating that policy; and Government supporters may remind us of it as often as they wish to do so.
The principal benefit that will be provided under this measure, which members of the Australian Country party strongly support, will be conferred upon owners of valuable city properties. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech said -
The Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that over 75 per cent, of the total tax assessed for the financial year 1941-42 was attributable to city lands. When the figures become available for the financial year 1951-52, it is probable they will show that the proportion mentioned is even greater.
In those words, the Treasurer made it perfectly clear that the abolition of the land tax will be of more benefit to city landholders than it will be to rural landholders whom members of the Australian Country party claim to represent in this Parliament. The Treasurer added -
It cannot be denied that the tax is a tax upon a capital asset.
I deny that claim. Land cannot rightly be said to be a capital asset. The production of wealth requires three factors - land, labour and capital - and I have cited the factors in the order of their importance. Capital is only that part of wealth which is used in the production of more wealth. Therefore, the Treasurer was incorrect when he said that land was a capital asset, and, on that ground, endeavoured to justify the introduction of this measure.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) quoted certain passages from the writings of Henry George. That great economist, in his book Progress and Poverty, deals with the taxation of land values. If Government supporters read that book they might gain a better understanding of the land question than they have so far revealed. In it, Henry George writes -
The tax upon land values is the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community. It is the application of the common property to common uses. When all rent is taken by taxation for the needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by nature be attained. No citizen will have an advantage over any other citizen save as is given by his industry, skill, and intelligence; and each will obtain what he fairly earns. Then, but not till then, will labour get its full reward, and capital its natural return.
That passage deals with the crux of this problem.
– The honorable member has quoted it out of its context; that book is only one of a series of three.
– I did not quote that passage out of its context. In any event, the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) does not appear to know too much about the writings of Henry George when he says that that great economist wrote only three books. He wrote many other books, including The Land Question, Social. Problems, Protection or Free Trade, The Condition of Labour, The Science of Political Economy and A Perplexed Philosopher. If he were alive to-day, he might, for the. benefit of the honorable member for St. George, write a book entitled “ A Perplexed Politician “. Taxation on unimproved land values is the most equitable means of raising governmental revenue. By such a means a taxpayer can be obliged to contribute to governmental expenditure in proportion to the benefits that he receives from the community as a whole. The owner of a valuable city property that is situated, for instance, in any of the principal streets in a capital city, realizes that the value of his property is substantially increased as a result of the expenditure of public money in the provision of essential community services of the kind that I have already mentioned. Therefore, he should be prepared to bear a proportion of that expenditure. Likewise, the owner, or, I should say, the possessor, of rural land should be obliged to pay to the community an annual rental - I prefer that term to the term tax - equal to the amount that another person is prepared to pay for the right to use the same land. I do not suggest for one moment that persons should be forced off the land. On the contrary, full security of tenure would be given to persons who are prepared to utilize land to the maximum of its capacity. Man is a land animal. He cannot live without land. Therefore, if a small section of a community is given the right to own and control the land in that community, the remainder will be completely at the mercy of those privileged few. If we desire to develop this country as it should be developed, we must push ahead as speedily as possible with our immigration programme. It is a tragedy that this Government has been obliged toreduce the intake of immigrants because economic conditions, in Australia are such that we cannot fully employ our own people.
-Order ! The honorable member may not discuss immigration policy.
– The’ reason we are unable to provide full employment for our own people is that land is locked in the hands of a few. I now wish to quote the remarks of Mr. Scullin when he was speaking during the debate on the land tax in this Parliament on the 31st August, 1910. He said -
We [the Labour party] are not opposed to immigration, but we say that this [land] tax must precede any settled policy of immigration. It must break up the large estates in our wellwatered and settled districts, and before we ask the people to pioneer back in the waste and arrid districts we should settle the lands near our cities, close to civilization, with a good rainfall and in touch with railways.
That quotation from the speech of Mr. Scullin reminds me of your own experience, Mr. Speaker. I have seen the property that you were forced to settle on in the Mallee. When I was travelling through the Pinnaroo district it was pointed out to me.
– Order ! If land was pointed out to the honorable member in the Pinnaroo district, then he had something pointed out to him that I did not have.
– You and. I and everybody else in South Australia refer to the area from Karoonda to
Renmark as the Pinnaroo district. To be correct of course it is not the Pinnaroo district. However, I saw your little block of land on the left-hand side of the railway line when I was travelling towards Renmark, and I pictured in my mind’s eye you, Mr. Speaker, gathering the mallee stumps and trying to keep the wolf from the door. I do not know whether you succeeded in doing so, but I do know that you got off that land as soon as you could and that you are now settled in a part of the country where you would have first settled if you had had the opportunity to do so. The reason why you and other exservice.men could not get land in the district where you are now located, was that the few wealthy land-owners who did not want to use the land themselves prevented you and other people from using it. They monopolized the land and you were forced to go to the Mallee. If you escaped bankruptcy you did it only by the skin of your teeth. The fact that you escaped it at all indicates that you were more fortunate, a much harder worker or lived more frugally than other people. When I said “frugally” I was really thinking of another word that would perhaps havebeen objectionable to you. However, you did .escape bankruptcy. It was not necessary to force people into those areas. There is so much good land in Australia in districts where there is an assured rainfall that, if we could unlock it and make it available, we could settle millions of people on it. If the land tax had been applied more rigorously than it has been in the past, it would have achieved that objective.
The only fault that the Opposition finds with the land tax is that it is not heavy enough. It should be so heavy that nobody could afford to keep one acre of land out of use. The land tax should be so heavy that it would be unprofitable for any one not to use his land to its maximum capacity. I believe that the abolition of the land tax is a retrograde step and I am glad to be able to say, as the honorable member for Melbourne said, that when Labour is returned to office, as it will be at the next general elections, we shall re-introduce the land tax. I hope that when we do re-impose it we shall make it heavy enough toforce the wealthy rural land-holders to cut. up their large estates of valuable property in assured rainfall areas, and force city land-holders to pay something to the community in return for what the community has provided for them in the way of publicfacilities.
.Honorable members, in listening to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), have listened to one of themost pathetic contributions that he hasever made to any debate during the lastfew years. The most valuable part of his speech was his recital of the history of the House of Cameron. Apart from that,, he made little or no real worthwhile contribution to the debate. The honorable member believes that the land tax should be much heavier than it has been in the past. He believes that the rate of tax should be so high that people could not be able to keep their properties out of production. The honorable member comes from the narrow confines of a city electorate, as does the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and his general knowledge and outlook are as limited as the outlook from his home verandah. He has absolutely no knowledge of the conditions that prevail in many country areas, because if he did have any such knowledge, he would realize that in many parts of the country a man must have thousands of acres of land in order to make a bare living under reasonable conditions. Slightly adverse conditions would make it impossible for him to make even a bare living. I believe that the people of Australia were very interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and of all those who have spoken on behalf of the Opposition. That is because they voiced the desire of the Opposition to increase the rates of the land tax. Honorable members should remember that in Queensland a Labour government taxes all land valued at more than £500. If that should become the policy of a future federal Labour government, then before long there would be no statutory limit of £8,750, but a statutory limit of, say, £500 or even less.
Apparently the Labour party intends to bring within the -ambit of land taxation a tremendous num’ber of people who have never previously paid it, including many who live in the surburban areas of our large cities. That is a condition that we in Queensland know only too well. Those in Brisbane, who paid £280 for land twelve or fifteen years ago, are to-day paying over £40 a year, or 15s. a week, in rates. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh considers that to be an insufficient tax on unimproved land, I believe that the people who pay will not agree with him. Not many Australians will agree that there should be a further imposition on land, particularly in the suburban areas. Most people would interpret the honorable member’s remarks as an indication that he believes that those land-owners who own over £500 worth of land should be brought within the scope of the land tax. The honorable member said that land is not capital. I cannot follow his reasoning in that regard, and I do not know whether even his colleagues can do so. It would be hard to convince any man who took up a small rural property, or any working man who invested his savings in an allotment of land for his own home, that he had not invested capital when he purchased the block of land. It is ridiculous and plain nonsense for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to suggest that land is not capital.
I shall now deal with some of the particular aspects of the measure. I appreciate that what I am about to say will bc a. repetition of what has already been said by honorable members on this side of the House, but I believe that as there are only three or four main points to be considered in this measure, such repetition is unavoidable. I wholeheartedly support the abolition of the land tax. I am sure that the people are sick and tired of hearing from the Opposition that the Government parties promised in 1949 that there should be progressive reductions of taxation. The proposal to abolish the land tax is complete evidence of our desire to put into effect our avowed policy of taxation reduction. It is necesary that the land tax should be abolished, because sectional taxation is most undesirable, and without any shadow of doubt land taxation is sectional taxation. I believe that in any sectional tax there must be an element of injustice, and throughout the years it has been proved that land tax has operated unjustly in many cases. The. two matters that have been specially referred to by honorable members opposite, particularly by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, are the supposed loss to the revenue by the abolition of the land tax, and the supposed effect that it has had in breaking up large estates. It is questionable whether the Commonwealth will lose much revenue. Last year £6,250,000 was collected by way of land tax. I do not think that any honorable member believes that we are going to lose £6,250,000 from the revenue by abolishing the tax. That is because all honorable members realize that under the income tax legislation all federal land tax paid is a deduction for income tax purposes. The amount paid by way of land tax is a deduction for such purposes whether the land produces income or not. If a company should save £2,000 in land tax as the result of this proposal, then obviously that £2,000, if it is retained in the business, would become income, and would be assessable at the current rate. It is not unreasonable to assume, and we can only assume in relation to this matter, that’ the amount which will return to the Treasury by way of income tax through the abolition of the land tax will be in the vicinity of £2,000,000.
– That is a bit high.
– The honorable member can make his own estimate. I ha.ve already said that in this matter we can only assume. Honorable members opposite have been telling us that the people who will benefit from the abolition of the tax are those who have large landholdings. Obviously large land-holders pay substantial amounts in income tax. Therefore, they pay income tax at high rates. If I assess their income tax at 6s. 8d. in the £1 I am probably not far from the mark. The honorable member for Melbourne said that the abolition of the land tax was a free gift to 21,000 people. In saying that, he showed a complete lack of understanding of the financial implication of the abolition of the land tax. Not only will the proceeds of the income tax increase but there will also be a saving in administration costs, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). When the total saving in the cost of administering the land tax - such as the salaries of valuators, assessors, the cost of stationery and general expenses - is estimated it will probably be found to be in the vicinity of £1,000,000. Therefore, the loss of £6,500,000 mentioned by the Opposition will be reduced by approximately 50 per cent. Consequently, the revenue that will be lost is in the vicinity of only £3,000,000 or slightly more. The Labour party is merely trying to mislead the people. It maintains) as it has always done, that it represents the interests of the little man. That is sheer nonsense. It tells the people that the Government is acting only in the interests of big business. The truth is that, on the grounds of increased .revenue from income tax, the difficulties and anomalies associated with the levying of land tax, the cost of appeals, and the nuisance value of land tax, there is no justification for the continuance of the impost.
The Opposition has argued that big business interests will benefit considerably from the abolition of land tax. I have already pointed out that their income tax liability will be increased. However, the argument deserves examination from several other points of view. There are three main categories of taxpayers in the so-called big business section of the community. The first one consists of pastoralists and agriculturists. Honorable members realize, as I am sure the people generally realize, that land tax is taken into consideration in determining the costs of primary production. The tribunals that fix the price of butter, for example, make allowance for the incidence of land tax when they calculate the expenses of the producer. Thus land tax is paid, in fact, by the consumer, not by the producer. Therefore, the abolition of the tax will indirectly benefit the consumers. Other considerations also should be taken into account. Serious droughts frequently occur in Queensland, where I live. All honorable members are aware that a severe drought is at present causing the loss of thousands of cattle in the north-western area of Queensland and the Northern Territory, and that the producers will suffer losses of income amounting to thousands of pounds. It is right and proper that we should relieve them of the burden of land tax at this time of difficulty. The so-called gift to primary producers under the terms of thi3 bill will, in fact, be only a minorbenefit.
I refer now to business organizations that will be affected by the abolition of land tax. These taxpayers can be classified in two specific categories. First, there are the companies that engage iti trade in the capital cities, and it is with such companies that we are chiefly concerned in this debate. I suppose that many of these organizations, 50 or even 100 years ago, paid what were considered then to be reasonable prices for properties on which they wished to conduct their business activities. Many businesses operate to-day on properties which cost perhaps £3,000 or £5,000 many years ago. But, because of economic changes since the properties were acquired, the owners are now called upon to pay land tax on the basis of considerably augmented valuations. Business concerns, like primary producers, add the cost of land tax to the prices of the goods and services that they sell to the general community. Therefore, the abolition of the tax will be of benefit to consumers because it will lead to a reduction of costs which will be passed on to them. If members of the Opposition were genuinely interested in the small man they would applaud the abolition of the land tax, because they would realize that it will help the people whom they claim to represent in this Parliament. . I suggest, in fact, that the Labour party does not truly represent the interests of such people.
Another important group in the business communities’ in our capital cities consists of individuals who have invested money in blocks of offices and similar buildings. There are many such taxpayers in Australia. The situation of some of these during the last two or three years has been pathetic. Their investments have realized a net loss, largely as a result of the fact that Commonwealth land tax was levied last year on the basis of current valuations, whereas previously 1942 valuations had been adopted for the purposes of the tax.
– That basis was adopted deliberately by the Government.
– That is true. This Government has always adopted a realistic attitude to the problems that confront it. The Labour Government favoured the levying ‘Of land tax according to valuations that applied ten years a.go. Every tax should be calculated on a realistic basis. What is the financial position of taxpayers who have invested money in blocks of office buildings, for instance J Local government rates have increased considerably, as has the Commonwealth land tax. State land taxes also have imposed a severe drain upon their resources. Members of the Opposition may not realize that, in Queensland at any rate, State land tax on properties up to an unimproved value of about £20,000 is more severe than is the Commonwealth tax. All these burdens, together with the increasing costs of maintenance, have prevented many investors from showing a profit because they have been unable to increase their revenues. That situation has been caused deliberately by the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, at any rate, through the system of rent controls. There is no justification for the continued pegging of rents for city properties whose tenants would be able to pass on to their clients and customers the extra costs of higher rents.
The Land Tax Act was framed originally for the purpose of breaking up large estates. That result was accomplished long ago, and the prospect of its having any further effect in that direction is now almost negligible. Very few individuals or companies would be likely to dispose of any of their property in the future if land tax were continued. The tax should be abolished if its original intention has been fulfilled.
– The purpose of the tax originally was not only to break up large estates, but also to force the owners to make the best use of their property.
– Had the honorable member been present earlier, he would have heard me discuss the point that he has raised. It is all very well to talk about making the best use of properties in regions of good rainfall, but many properties in Australia are in regions of poor rainfall where pastoralists must have vast areas of land in order to earn a reasonable income.
I whole-heartedly support the contention of the honorable member for Benin el ong (Mr. Cramer) that the levying of tax on the unimproved value ‘Of land should be the sole prerogative of local governing authorities. Honorable members know that many local governing bodies have asked for Commonwealth financial aid in the last few years. State governments also have grumbled and demanded assistance, but, as local governing authorities have a severely restricted field for the gathering of revenues, I consider that this Parliament should leave the right to levy taxes on the unimproved value of land entirely in their hands. By that means, they could be made fully responsible for the collecting of the money, that they spend. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) introduced the subject of the taxing rights of the ‘States into this debate. It is not pertinent to the main issue, but I take the opportunity to remark that both State governments and local governing bodies should be completely responsible for the raising of the moneys that they actually expend. The land tax field will be left open to the State governments when the Commonwealth vacates it. However, I hope that the States also will vacate it in favour of local governing bodies.
The objection of honorable members opposite to the abolition of land tax appears to arise from their socialistic aspirations. They wish to take away from the people the fruits of their initiative and enterprise, and I strongly resist their proposal that higher rates of tax be levied on property owners. We should appreciate the fact that investment in land represents an investment of capital. In this country, capital and labour should work side by ‘ side. Unless we encourage land ownership, we shall eventually descend to the Soviet system that members of the Opposition like the honorable member for Hindmarsh’ desire to achieve.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented.
– I shall hear the honorable member on the point on which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said that I and other members of the Opposition believed in bringing about a Soviet system in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member may reply only on behalf of himself.
– On behalf of myself, I say that the statement was completely untrue. Furthermore, the honorable member knows that it is untrue of every other member of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- The purpose of this bill is to abolish the land tax. The Opposition objects to that proposal. The land tax was introduced in 1910 for the pur-pose of breaking up large estates, and has been in operation in the intervening years. It has yielded a considerable amount of revenue. I find it strange that the Government should propose to abolish a tax which last year yielded £7,000,000. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, claims that the tax is not achieving the purpose for which it was originally imposed. The Opposition does not accept that explanation for the abolition of the tax. If the levy is not achieving the purpose for which it was imposed in 1910, the Government should increase the rate of the’ tax. Land which is not now being used to the best advantage must be made available to other people who are prepared to bring it into full production.
Australia has had an unfavorable trade balance for a considerable time because of the decline of our exports of primary products. The only way in which we can increase those exports is by placing more settlers on the land, and obtaining greater yields from the land already in production. The land tax, in reality, has affected only the big monopolies. The small land-holder on a home maintenance area, which is an economic unit to sustain a family, has not been affected by the tax. Land tax was payable only by the owner of a property, the unimproved value of which exceeded £8,750. Therefore, the tax was not payable by the owner of a property the capital value of which was less than approximately £20,000. The absentee land-holders should be given little consideration in this matter, because they, in the aggregate, are not good settlers in this country, yet they will benefit substantially from the remission of the tax. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has shown that two absentee land-holders - banking institutions which are, in reality, overseas instrumentalities - will save £90,000 a year, and that many large pastoral companies will also reap a substantial benefit. If Australia is to increase primary production, more settlers must be placed on the land, and the rate of the land tax must be increased in order to make it unprofitable for persons to hold large estates and not put them into full production. I hope that the Labour party, when it returns to office in the near future, will introduce legislation without delay to reimpose the land tax at an even heavier rate upon large estates in order to bring about closer settlement.
Many persons, including the sons of primary producers, are being compelled to leave country districts and seek employment in large towns because large estates are not being subdivided for closer settlement. The abolition of the land tax will assist the retention of large estates, because the present owners will not break up their properties and offer sections for sale at reasonable prices, as they would if the incidence of the land tax were made more severe. Land-holders will be encouraged, by the abolition of this tax, to retain large estates, and exploit the country.
The whole situation is most unfortunate. Figures which I have disclosed in this Parliament in recent weeks show that fewer persons have been employed on the land in the last few years than was the case many years ago. The Fisher Government imposed the land tax in 1910 in an effort to break up large estates, and encourage more people to settle on the land. The tax should not be abolished merely because the purpose for which it was imposed has not been fulfilled. If land were valued according to its productive capacity, those persons who hold large estates would have to use them to the fullest advantage, and grow the products for which the land was best suited. If they failed to do so, they would find it unprofitable to hold that land, and would be obliged to “ disgorge “ it at reasonable prices to eager buyers. Previous speakers in this debate have pointed out that many large sheep holdings and cattle runs could be subdivided, with advantage, for closer settlement. Some pastoral holdings could be subdivided, and thousands of settlers could be placed on the holdings to grow more wheat. Some wheat-growing and mixed-farming areas could be used to better advantage for dairying, and more intense agricultural propositions. Some land is not being used to the best advantage at the present time, simply because the owners are not being taxed severely enough to compel them to “ disgorge “ sections of it.
There is a tendency in a number of countries to subdivide large estates in order to make land available to more people. One of the principal features of the policy of the new dictator of Egypt, General Naguib, is to take land from the wealthy classes, who are not using it to the best advantage, and offer it to persons who will bring it into full production. We should not like dictatorial action of that kind to be taken in Australia, and I believe that it never will be ; but the point I make is that we, as a nation of fair and free men, must ensure that the land shall be used to the best advantage, and that those who are eager, and willing to bring it into full production shall have every opportunity to do so. Those objectives can be achieved only by the subdivision of large estates.
This bill will relieve prosperous landholders of the obligation to pay an amount of £7,000,000 by way of tax this year. Those land-holders have properties, not only in the country districts, but also in the large cities. Many big commercial establishments will receive a big “ hand back “ from this Government. That is unfortunate, at a time when the Government has increased taxation so substantially. The age pension could have been increased-
– Order ! I said earlier that I shall not allow a discussion of matters outside the land tax.
– I am endeavouring to point out that the Government, as the result of the abolition of the land tax, will give a privilege to an already privileged section of the community, yet it has imposed additional hardships upon a section of the people least able to bear them. Foi instance, the Government is handing back £7,000,000 to a very wealthy section, but the sales tax-
-Order ! The matter of sales tax- has been decided by the House, and has no bearing on this bill.
– The point that I was hoping to make was that the Government has substantially increased other taxes this year. It has increased taxation from £504,000,000 in the financial year 1949-50 to more than £800,000,000-
– Order ! The honorable member apparently is trying to evade my ruling. He will find that it is a rather unprofitable task.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that no honorable member can make out a case against the abolition of the land tax unless he is permitted to make a comparative analysis of that tax with other taxes. My colleague, the honorable member for Darling, is seeking to show that the land tax has had a certain result, and that other taxes have produced different results. Surely he will be in order in making such a comparative analysis.
– Order! The Committee of Supply had a full and proper opportunity to discuss all forms of taxation, and judging from the report which was tendered to me, it must have done so. The House has also dealt, in turn, with the sales tax and the income tax and social services contribution. The purpose of the bill under consideration is not to impose taxation but to repeal the land tax. If this bill becomes law, land tax will not be imposed in future.
I say, firmly and finally, as I said to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) this afternoon, that I will not permit a debate on sales tax, the age pension and all sorts of other subjects on this bill. Honorable members must confine their remarks to the abolition of the land tax.
– I have no desire to circumvent your ruling, Mr. Speaker”, but I should like to say, in passing, that the Government, as the result of this bill, will hand back £7,000,000 to a wealthy section of the community, which can well afford to pay that amount.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Darling has referred on several occasions to the Government handing back £7,000,000 to a very wealthy section of the community. That is not an accurate statement of the position. Under this bill, money will not be handed back to certain landholders. The abolition of the land tax means that the tax will not be collected in future. Land-holders will be subject, in the normal way, to the income tax and social services contribution, and at no stage-
– Order ! What is the honorable gentleman’s point of order ?
– At no stage can it be stated with accuracy that the Government is handing back £7,000,000 to a very wealthy section of the community.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– The point I make, in passing, is that the Government will raise an additional £360,000,000 from taxation in this- financial year compared with the receipts in 1949-50. A considerable percentage of that amount will be paid by a section of the community least able to bear the burden, yet the Government proposes to hand back £7,000,000 to a privileged section. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) made the point that many of the areas which have been subject to land tax were taken up before rail and road facilities were provided in them. That is an argument in favour of retaining the land tax because the owners have received the benefit of large expenditure on great public works such as roads, railways and waterworks. The value of their properties has been increased as a result. It is only fair and just that a substantial tax should be paid to the Government in compensation for the work that has been done. It is not fair to ask the poorer sections of the community to bear the cost. In this budget £100,000,000 has been set aside for public works. That money is to be raised by taxation and its expenditure will improve the value of land near the facilities that are constructed. There is no sound reason why the owners should be exempt from taxation on their land. The expenditure of that money will improve the value of the assets of people who own large areas. Many of them are not malting full use of the land. Those who have areas far larger than an economic unit should be forced to sell the land at reasonable prices so that more people can be settled there. We live in a scientific age that is notable for experimentation and development. Much of that work is being done by the Government. Works that are performed by smaller authorities are being financed at the expense of the great mass of the people. Those whose land is being enhanced in value as a result should pay a tax.
The land tax was designed primarily to break up the larger estates so that more people would be able to live on the land. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) claims that the tax has not achieved its purpose. I believe that it has not achieved all that was expected of it in that regard, but the problem cannot be solved by abolishing the tax. Instead, the land tax should be increased to such an extent that it will have the effect for which it was originally designed. The result would he better use of the land and greater production. If the tax had been imposed on a heavier scale since its introduction in 1910, land settlement would have been greater, a larger population would be living in the rural areas now and the national economy would be sounder. Instead we have acute trade difficulties. Our overseas balance is dependent largely upon primary products, and it has been depleted. If the Opposition cannot convince the Government of the necessity for retaining the land tax, it will immediately reimpose the tax when it is returned to office.
Mr. BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) f8.l9]. - One point has emerged from the speeches of honorable members on the Opposition side, and particularly from that of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). It is that if the Labour party is returned to power, it will not only re-impose the land tax, but will increase it.
– Hear, hear!
– I wonder what the primary producers will think when they hear that proposition? I have opposed the land tax ever since I entered this House. In my maiden speech, I stated that it was a tax on a tool of trade, particularly of primary producers, and should be abolished. Honorable members on the Opposition side have said that the principal reason for the imposition of the land tax originally was to break up big estates.
– That is not so.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. I have read most of the debates on this tax which was introduced in 1910, and I repeat that the original purpose of the tax was to break up large estates. Later, the land tax was recognized to be a means of producing revenue. I invite honorable members opposite to tell me where are the big estates. They cannot do so because their vision is limited to the distance that they can see from the front verandahs of their metropolitan home.s. I suggest that they should visit some of the wide open spaces to see some of the big estates that they have been talking about. I would like them also to confer with some of their Labour colleagues in the Queensland Parliament. Only recently two of the Labour members of the Queensland Parliament stated that they were opposed to the indiscriminate cutting up of big estates because they know that it would ruin the country. The big estates are only in the dry areas. I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed to closer settlement. It should come and it will come. It is necessary for the production of food, but honorable members on this aide of the House do not believe in confiscation. Honorable members opposite do not suggest the acquisi-tion of land in a decent and honest way on the basis of reasonable compensation. They have said definitely that they would increase the land tax and force the big land-holders off their land. They would confiscate it. That is a dishonest practice and it will not be tolerated for five minutes.
On one point I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He said that he believed in security of tenure and I wonder how far he cut across his own party’s socialization policy in doing so. That is a burning question. About 90 per cent, of the land that is held in Queensland is on a perpetual lease basis. Some of it is occupied under what is called the farm leasehold system on homestead leases. A perpetual lease is practically the same as freehold so far as the sale of the properties is concerned. But the other leases give no security of tenure. They are held at the discretion of the Minister. He decides the area that will be leased and the rental that will be charged and there is no provision for an appeal. I suggest to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that he should interview Labour members of Parliament in Queensland and discuss with them the seriousness of the indiscriminate splitting up of big estates. I believe that big areas should be subdivided when that can be done economically. Members of the Opposition, however, persistently suggest that the land tax should be continued and they have stated that they will increase it when they return to power. If the land is broken up, and we believe that that is the correct procedure, it will give increased production. Honorable members opposite are expressing concern about increased production at a lata hour of the day. They are advocating it only for political purposes. The Government has been sincere in its approach to the question and has demonstrated its sincerity by introducing this bill for the abolition of the land tax. It is part of our policy to reduce taxation and costs, and this measure is directed toward that objective. I congratulate the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) on his contribution to the debate. As previous speakers on this side of the House have covered the subject thoroughly I shall not be guilty of tedious repetition, but 1 support the bill. It is a demonstration of the Government’s intention to fulfil its promise to the people to do something, that is long overdue.
– Complaints have been made by honorable members that the land tax is a bad tax because it is a sectional tax. It cannot be denied that it is a sectional tax. That is what it was intended to be. It was designed to fall upon a section of the community that was in possession of land assets beyond a certain value. The mere fact that this Government has raised the initial exemption from land tax from an unimproved value of £5,000 to an unimproved value of £S,750 excludes the largest section of land holders from the impact of the tax. Therefore, this tax unquestionably is a sectional tax. Because of that, the repeal of the land tax must have a limited and sectional impact. As a start I want to clear up one or two wild statements that were made this afternoon with an air of complete authority and finality by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). He was right when he said that a taxpayer was permitted to claim as a deduction for income tax purposes a sum that he had paid in land tax. The honorable gentleman said he had estimated that, as a result of the repeal of the land tax, income tax collections would rise by about £2,000,000 a year. That figure may or may not be accurate, but I do not deny that there will be some increase of income tax collections as a result of the repeal of the tax.
Then he made the extravagant statement that possibly the cost of administering the land tax was in the region of £1,000,000 a year. We have no precise figures upon this matter, but statistics relating to the cost of the collection of taxes generally are published by the Commissioner of Taxation, in his annual report. The thirtieth annual report of the commissioner, which was tabled on the 22nd February, 1952, reveals that the cost of administration of the various taxes in his hands was £4,165,000. and that the total collection was £362,000,000. The cost of administration was 1.15 per cent, of the total collection. Let us assume that the cost of administration of the land tax is 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, of the sum collected. On that basis, the cost of collection this year would be between £250,000 and £300,000. The statement made by the honorable gentleman is typical of some of the wild statements that are made in this chamber. Some honorable members think of a number and quote it, in the belief that it will add strength to their case. On an estimated collection of £7,000,000, the cost of administration of the land tax would be, on a liberal estimate, between £250,000 and £300,000 a year.
To show that this tax is sectional and that the benefits derived from its repeal would be sectional also, let me cite official statistics that were published by the Commissioner of Taxation in his thirtieth annual report. On page 58 of that document, dealing with the land tax, the Commissioner stated -
Statistics have not been extracted from returns and published in the Annual Report since the 1941-42 assessment year.
He added, however, that he believed that the statistics for the 1941-42 assessment year were still reasonably accurate for the purposes of the year covered by that report. Although figures have not been published in respect of the years since revaluation took place, something can be gleaned from the statistics that were published in the twenty-fourth annual report of the Commissioner, which dealt in some detail with collections of land tax throughout Australia. Land taxpayers are classified under three headings - residents (including individuals, trustees and joint ownerships), companies, and absentees. In the year covered by the report, there were 18,862 residents, 3,059 companies, and 2,450 absentees. There was a total of approximately 21,900 land taxpayers throughout Australia.
When we talk about income tax, we talk about millions of taxpayers, but when we talk about land tax, we talk about only 21,900 taxpayers. As I stated earlier, land tax is a sectional tax. Its repeal would be of benefit, not to the community at large, but only to a limited section of the community. A further examination of the figures published in the twenty-fourth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that the benefit derived from the repeal of the land tax will be enjoyed by very few of the 21,900 land taxpayers. On page 28 of the report, a detailed analysis is made of the amount of land tax paid by individuals, according to the unimproved value of their land. Let us exclude from consideration absentee taxpayers, who numbered only 2,450 and paid only £25,000 of the £3,000,000 that was paid in land tax that year. Let us confine our attention to the 21,921 taxpayers who were resident in Australia. I have divided them into four categories, the first of which is composed of those with land of an unimproved value of £10,000 or less. Of the 21,921 local taxpayers - residents and companies - 16,818, or over 80 per cent, of the total, had land of an unimproved value of £10,000 or less.
– Is this a case for the abolition of the tax?
– I shall develop my argument in my own way. I do not want any help from you. I shall make my point in due course. What I am trying to ram into your head-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s language is becoming unparliamentary.
– Because the land tax is a sectional tax and because the benefits derived from its repeal will be enjoyed by only a small number of taxpayers, I say that the abolition of the tax will not affect the price of a bushel of wheat or of 1 lb. of wool. In my opinion, it will have very little affect upon rural production in Australia. I suggest that the Government, instead of abolishing the tax, should use it, as it should be used, for developmental purposes. Even if the tax has failed, there is no reason why it should be abolished. It could be reorientated to serve a useful purpose as far as the rural economy of Australia is concerned.
Let me develop my argument that any advantages accruing from the abolition of the tax will be only sectional in their effect. In the 1941-42 assessment year, there were 21,921 resident taxpayers, who paid £3,787,126 in land tax. The number of taxpayers with estates of an unimproved value of £10,000 or less was 16,818, or roughly four-fifths of the total number of taxpayers. Those 16,818 taxpayers paid only £226,000 of the £3,787,000 that was collected in that year. Honorable members will see that 80 per cent, of the taxpayers paid only 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, of the total amount of land tax collected. The next category consists of taxpayers with estates of an unimproved value of between £10,000 and £60,000, which are fairly considerable holdings. There were 4,521 taxpayers in that category, and they paid £903,388 in land tax. If we take the first two groups together, we see that 21,300 of the 21,900 land taxpayers paid £1,129,000 in land tax, or less than one-third of the total amount of tax paid.
I come now to a very important point. There were 484 taxpayers with estates of an unimproved value of between £60,000 and £200,000. That group comprised about 2 per cent, of the total number of land taxpayers, but it paid £1,125,000. Then there was a group of 98 taxpayers with estates of an unimproved value of over £200,000. Those people, between them, paid £1,531,553 in land tax. We must bear in mind that, in the last year in which the land tax will be levied, the revenue is about £7,000,000, or roughly double the sum that was collected in the year with which I am dealing. Because the tax is, to some degree, progressive, it is possible that these categories of taxpayers will derive more benefit .from the repeal of the tax now than they would have done in 1941-42. But let us take the figures foi that year as an example. There were 484 taxpayers with estates of an unimproved value of between £60,000 and £2,000,000, and 98 with estates of an unimproved value of over £200,000. Those two categories of taxpayers represented about 2.2 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers, but, between them, they paid 70 per cent, of the total sum derived from the tax in that year. That analysis indicates the magnitude of the advantage which the repeal of the tax will give to a few people in the community. 1 know that the honorable- member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer’) says that a large proportion of land taxpayers are companies) and that the tax upon those companies is paid by individual shareholders. But that is a lot. of bunkum. A corporation has a social existence of its own, and it derives certain, social advantages from the community. It was the concept of those social advantages, and the unearned increment,, economic rent or whatever we like to call it, which lay behind the imposition of the land tax originally. I have said already that, in my opinion, neither the price of a bushel of wheat nor the1 price of a pound of wool will fall as a result of .the abolition of this tax. That illustrates the old argument advanced by economists years ago, that prices- determine rent rather than the reverse. I am talking now about: the concept of economic rent, which economists, writing a hundred years ago, regarded, as “ the original and indestructible properties’ of the land “, That definition implied, that economic rent was something of a social character that belonged, not to the individual but to the community. The concept, was that some land, merely because of its situation, had. a greater economic yield than other land,, and. that it was not right that an individual, merely because he was fortunate enough to be in possession, of land in a certain situation, should reap a social benefit from it. That has been allowed to happen, in. this community, and that state of. affairs will be! perpetuated if the land, tax is repealed.
I want to make one or two points that probably have not occurred to the Government. A repeal of the land tax virtually overnight, as the Government proposes, would have at any rate some effect upon the value of land upon, which the tax had been imposed. If a flat rate of land tax is applied annually, there is a tendency for the prospective purchaser of a piece of land, or a property to take that tax into account when, he is determining the price tha* he will offer; If the land tax is repealed, the price of land, will rise to a certain degree. What does the Government intend to do about the increment that will be bestowed upon certain fortunate sections of the community if they sell their land after this tax has been repealed’?’ That sort of thing is not considered by this Government. The honorable member for Bennelong- (Mr. Cramer) chided’ us earlier to-day by saying in effect “ You want taxes- to be reduced. Here is a tax reduction and you are opposed to it “. But why has the Government chosen to abolish this particular tax as though its abolition would- benefit the community at’ large ? As I have tried, to indicate, its abolition will fall with generous impact on a few small sections of the community. I venture to say that there will be little reduction, as a result of: the abolition of the tax, of the- prices charged by emporiums for their goods or of” the prices of rural products’. What might occur, instead’, will be an inflation of already inflated land values.
Recently we debated the subject of. the acquisition of certain properties in New South Wales for the purpose of war service land settlement. During that debate honorable members opposite contended that the owners of the lend acquired were entitled to what they called “ just compensation “. But when it comes to a worker receiving, just compensation in the form of a wage, it is suggested that he should be hedged about with all sorts of restrictions. We say that if a rigid control is exercised in relation to the wage paid to the worker in. industry - and such a rigid control is exercised: - then the same kind of control should be imposed in relation to the prices of the goods and services that the worker has to buy with, his controlled wage. In my opinion the inflated prices of foodstuffs have done more to aggravate inflation, to-day than high wages have done. Among the factors’ that- determine prices are inflated land, values, which are reflected in. ultimate production costs, a matter in which the honorable member for Bennelong was so interested to-day on behalf of a. very few people,, even though he attempted, to disguise that fact by saying, that 3,000 companies might, include as shareholders some millions of. taxpayers.
The repeal of this tax will benefit only a relatively few people.. We have been asked what we would suggest as an alternative to this measure. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) suggested that something should be done to redress, as it were, the’ large aggregations of land that are contained in a relatively few holdings in Australia. Whilst people are clamouring to get on the land there are some individuals who own too much land, and nothing can apparently be done about unlocking the land for use to its full capacity. But something ought to be done about it. I suggest the primary intention of this tax was not to raise revenue. It was hoped that the imposition of the tax would lead to the breaking up of large estates. There are a great number of big estates in Australia, and whilst in this year of grace we may still maintain the rights of private ownership, the ownership of land must to some degree be considered to impose social obligations. We cannot add to that area of land within our national boundaries, but that land can be nourished and used for the benefit of the community generally. Last week a statement was produced in this House by the Minister for Territories dealing with the granting of pastoral leases in the Northern Territory. It was suggested that the Administrator of the territory or a land board, should examine particular properties in the territory and should see-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not discuss debates of the present session, except the present debate.
– At any rate, the suggestion made was that those properties could be examined to ascertain whether they were overstocked or understocked, and as a result of the determination made the Administrator could suggest to the occupier of the land that he had either too few or too many cattle on his property and should make an adjustment accordingly. I suggest that something of that kind ought to be done in Australia. We hear time and time again that Australia needs more food production and an increase of exports, which can come primarily only from the products of our soil. Those ends cannot be achieved by exhortations to big squatters to increase production or to put their land to better use. If big squatters will not conform to social practice, I for one cannot see any reason why some system should not be. considered whereby examination could be made of their properties to determine whether or not they are being used to the greatest social advantage. Perhaps it may not be easy to devise the requisite machinery to put such a procedure into operation, but I suggest that something of that kind has to be done. If we want to put more people on the land, they must be employees dependent on some one else or they must have holdings of their own. We cannot increase the amount of land in Australia, but we can alter its distribution as between big and small holdings. It was to do that very thing that this tax was originally imposed. It is argued that the tax has not achieved that objective. It would be possible to argue, however, that it certainly has not made the situation any worse. The thing to do is not to repeal the tax, which is the easy way out, but to devise a better system of distributing the revenue that is collected from it. What argument could reasonably be made against the devotion of this tax to the purposes of war service land settlement or land development generally? I suggest that that was one of the primary purposes of the tax. It was intended to break up large estates, because it was believed that if the tax fell with sufficient impact on the owner of a big estate he would be forced to get rid of some of his land. In the ultimate it looks as if that meant that the owner of land was to be taxed because he was not making the greatest possible social use of it.
We say that the land problem has always been one of the premier problems of the Australian community, and that it has been aggravated by private ownership of land and also by the right of inheritance, under which land is handed down from generation to generation. The right of inheritance imposes certain social obligations, and the thing to do is not to throw up our hands in horror and say private property must in all respects be sacrosanct. It cannot be sacrosanct! It is only a heritage, for the time being, of the person who is enjoying it for the time being, and it is intended to be, not merely a source of individual profit, but also to carry with it certain, social obligations. The Labour party has always looked at this problem, not from the point of view of individual greed, but from the point of view of social obligation and responsibility to the community as a whole. I suggest that the Government has been hasty in moving to repeal this tax. Its action is just one more proof of the Government’s defeatist attitude. Its excuse for the abolition of the tax is that it has failed in its purpose, and that there is nothing that the Government can do about it except repeal it.
The land tax had certain social implications when it was imposed. If it has not worked out exactly as was intended, the solution is not to repeal it but to devise some more satisfactory system that will give greater advantage to society as a whole. As I have said, we are working within a limited framework of land. We have only a given area of land in this country, and the proportion of fertile land in that area is comparatively small. At the same time we have a growing population, not only in Australia, but all over the world, and countries near us look sometimes to our, in their opinion, empty spaces and say that they are not being used to the greatest advantage. We assert that Australia’s greatest means of defence lies not in being offensive or in building up large armaments, but in the development of friendly relations with our neighbours, either by bringing their immigrants in or by trading with them. Australia, through its Parliament and Government, should work out a system that will enable this country to live and flourish in conjunction with the prosperity and welfare of the nations around us.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) started to make out his case in the same way in which all honorable members opposite have dealt with this matter - that is, by pouring out upon us first the story that this tax is to be abolished because the Government has a sufficient number of supporters to carry out its intention, and that the Labour party will re-impose the tax at an increased rate if it is returned to office, and, in effect, completely socialize the land. The honorable gentleman went on to prove his point by a mass of figures which he culled from various papers. I jotted some of the figures down, but I have not had time to analyse them carefully. However, I know that he based much of his argument on a false premise. He challenged certain figures given by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who made a carefully considered speech on the measure earlier to-day. He said that the cost of collecing taxes was about £4,500,000 a year. I do not know where the honorable gentleman got his figures.
– I quoted them from the thirtieth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which was tabled last February, and which is available in the record branch.
– I am glad to know the source of the honorable member’s information, because that knowledge enables me to inform him that there are more up-to-date documents than that from which he has quoted. If he cares to examine them he will find that the conclusion which he reached from that figure of £4,500,000 was not based on fact. If he will analyse carefully the official papers he will find that last financial year the cost of collecting taxes was £6,120,000, and that the estimated cost of collecting taxes this financial year is £6,400,000. The difference between £4,500,000 and £6,400,000 is almost £2,000,000. A person who works out a sum based on a prime figure that is almost £2,000,000 out would certainly produce some queer answers. We got some queer answers from the honorable member. Basing his argument on that false figure, he said that the cost of collecting land tax was in the ratio of the difference between the amount collected for land tax and the total amount of tax collected. The honorable gentleman should be aware that the collection of land tax is a very expensive business. That may not have been so from 1942 up till last year, because during that period land values were pegged and no need existed for field officers to make assessment surveys as they would normally do every three years. However, during last year, when the normal system was reverted to, the cost of administering the tax must have increased tremendously. I agree with the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) that that cost was nearer £1,000,000 a year than the figure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports displayed an inferiority complex which is characteristic of members of the Opposition. His speech was steeped in class hatred. He adopted the attitude that payers of land tax were wealthy people who must be brought down and destroyed. He said that they enjoyed every social advantage and were “ society “. In that fashion, he gave vent to the bitter class hatred that is characteristic of members of the Opposition who are never prepared to give credit where credit is due. The land tax was introduced 42 years ago primarily for the purpose of breaking up large estates. It has failed miserably to achieve that objective. I welcome that failure. The history of Australia has been written by the men on the land who were prepared to push out the frontiers of the nation. They occupied large tracts which were of no value in themselves, but by their own efforts and in the face of privation they helped to make Australia the great country that it is to-day. This tax was wrongly conceived, a.nd I am pleased to be a supporter of the Government that is now taking action to abolish it. Land tax is a tax upon a capital asset, and, so far as the primary producer is concerned, it is a tax on his main incomeproducing asset. No other members of the community are obliged to pay tax on their income-producing assets. How could any Government continue to discriminate against primary producers in that way and, at the same time, expect them to increase production. It is all very well for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to say that the abolition of land tax will not result in a reduction of the price of wheat. It may not do so, but its abolition will provide another incentive to the man on the land to increase production and thus ensure that sufficient supplies of wheat and other primary products, including wool which will help us to maintain our overseas balances, should be produced. Land tax has been a pin-pricking tax which has destroyed the incentive of primary producers. “What purpose could be served by bringing about a stalemate in production? Yet, such a stalemate practically existed in this country as a result of repressive legislation that was enacted during the period of eight and a half years that Labour was in office. Primary producers were given no incentive to go ahead. This is an act of wise administration. The man on the land will be able to look to primary production as a means of earning income for himself as well as the means of producing much needed food for the people. The last two years were truly dangerous years for Australia. Perhaps, we are too close to the events of those years to view them in their proper perspective; but I have no doubt that history will record that during that period Australia was fast approaching the verge of famine because of the repressive legislation of Labour Governments since 1942. Those governments had no sympathy whatever for the primary producer.
I repeat that the land tax was primarily introduced for the purpose of breaking up big estates. However, the unimproved value of city properties steadily increased with the result that during the last few years owners of such properties were obliged to pay a heavy impost under this heading. Members of the Opposition claim that the Government is abolishing this tax in order to give some advantage to. its wealthy friends. What exactly will the abolition of this tax achieve? Last year, the sum of £6,400,000 was collected in land tax. Honorable members opposite forget that those who paid that tax also pay heavy taxes under other headings, particularly income tax. It is estimated that as a result of the abolition of the land tax, such taxpayers will pay an additional £2,000,000 in income tax during the current financial year. Taking into account the expenditure of £1,000,000 that is incurred in the administration of land tax, it can be said to the Government that the loss to revenue as a result of this action will be not more than half that amount that was collected under this heading last year. At the same time, the removal of this pin pricking impost will give an incentive to primary producers to increase production. I could not quite follow the honorable member for Melbourne Ports when he said that the Government should not plunge this nation into civil war. All honorable members, except some, perhaps, who have a secret affiliation with the Communist party, would not desire to see that happen.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill before the House.
– We need, primarily, to bring production to its highest peak of efficiency, and we can achieve that objective only by giving every incentive to the man on the land to go ahead. That is our only hope of enjoying a prosperous peace. If we make our people happy and contented, they will readily give of their best in the interest of the country that they love. I repeat that the land tax was wrongly conceived and has outlived its usefulness. I have no doubt that the people will remember the threat that members of the Opposition have made in the course of this debate that if ever Labour regains office it will reimpose this tax.
– Hear, hear !
– I trust that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will repeat, on the public platform, that Labour has undertaken to reimpose the land tax and to make it more stringent than it has been in the past. The people will then realize more than ever that it is their primary duty to ensure that Labour shall never regain office in this Parliament.
– Government supporters have said much about the need to increase production. How can this Parliament help to achieve that objective? Many authorities have said that unless we do so within the immediate future we shall, in ten years’ time, be obliged to import wheat and other food primary products. That warning has been issued not by members of the Australian Labour party but by persons who can claim to speak with some authority on this matter. The duty devolves upon this Parliament to give serious consideration to this problem, particularly as we have been told that it is necessary for Australia to produce sufficient foodstuffs not only for our own people but also for export in order that we shall be enabled to import essential goods that we have not the capacity to produce. Of course, this Parliament is somewhat circumscribed in any action that it can take to bring pressure upon primary producers to increase production. Members of the Australian Labour party have always contended that one effective way to obtain maximum food production is to impose tax upon the unimproved value of land. That has been Labour’s policy over the years. Government supporters have claimed that the land tax was introduced in order to break up big estates, but the fact is, as Mr. Fisher said when he introduced the original measure in 1910, it was introduced for the dual purpose of breaking up big estates and of raising revenue. Mr. Fisher’s statement in that respect was clear and simple. His idea was that the tax should be a means of raising revenue from the owners of valuable properties in the cities. The tax was not payable in respect of properties of which the unimproved value was less than £5,000. In 1910, the unimproved value of the property of the ordinary primary producer - the wheat-grower and the dairyfarmer - was not anything like that amount. Therefore, it was patently clear that the second purpose of the tax was to oblige owners of large areas either to utilize their land to its maximum capacity or to dispose of a part of it to other persons who would do so. To a great degree, increased taxation as a result of abnormally high prices for primary products has been responsible for the decrease of production. I know many persons who produced milk when the price to the dairy-farmer was 3d. or 4d. a gallon.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to show the necessity for retaining the land tax. One dairy-farmer told me that he was not going to milk 70 cows and thereby increase his tax liability when he could make a comfortable living with 40 cows. If a man believes that he can get a good living-
– Order ! The honorable member is straying rather far from the subject of the land tax. The measure before the House is a bill for the repeal of the federal land tax. I do not intend that the debate shall develop into one about primary production. That would be out of order.
– I do not intend to do that. I am attempting to indicate why I object to the abolition of the land tax. Persons who own land to-day adopt the attitude that they will use only half of the land because they can make a living out of that half, but if they use the whole of it, the increased incidence of taxation will make it not worth their while. I suggest that to abolish the land tax will accentuate the difficulties created by that attitude. This Government, or the State governments must attempt to institute a system of taxation that will make the land available to the people. If, as honorable members on the Government side have stated, the present tax is not breaking up large estates, then the system should be altered. In view of the present incomes of many land-owners I do not consider that it would hurt them to pay a little more land tax. The abolition of the tax will not assist the ordinary small farmers, lt should be realized that a.n exemption from land taxation is now applied to all lands of an unimproved value of less than £8,750. If ex-servicemen, and the sons of fanners who were too young to go to the last war, pay more than £8,000 for their unimproved land and then pay all the other expenses connected with establishing a farm, they will have very little chance of success. Persons who own land of an unimproved value of less than £8,750 will not be affected by the abolition of the land tax because they pay no land tax at present. If a man required 2,000 acres to make a living before the prices of primary products increased, he would not require that area of land to-day because if he used it to the full his taxation would make his activities unprofitable. Therefore, he does not use more than about half of his land. “We must try to work out a system that will do what the land tax has failed to do. The land tax has had some small effect on the breaking up of large estates, but its effect has not been as great as it should.
I agree with some honorable members opposite that the land tax is bringing in more revenue from the cities than from the country. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has indicated how much is now being paid by banks and other big business institutions. “When the financial position of friendly societies was examined some time ago, it was discovered that one society owned two small city blocks on which it had to pay £2,000 in land tax. No doubt organizations such as that will agree that the tax should be abolished. I admit that on some city properties large amounts are being .paid in land tax, and I agree that if it is abolished those institutions will reduce their prices and so pass on the benefit that they have received. We have been told by the Government that big drapery concerns will pass on any reduction of taxation. If we are to work upon that principle we should abolish many other taxes. If the Myer Emporium Limited in Melbourne, or big business houses in Sydney, had to pay less company tax than they pay at present, they could still further reduce their prices. However, it is necessary for the Government to obtain sufficient revenue to carry on its functions, and it must draw the line somewhere. I do not blame the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for our high rates of taxation; the system has evolved because of the increased needs of the community and because of the present inflation of the currency. Five pounds collected in tax to-day is worth no more than £2 was worth ten years ago. I recognize that simple fact.
It has been said that the land tax is not worth collecting. I dare say that it is not worth collecting 25s. of income tax from a taxpayer in the lower income brackets, but nevertheless it has to be collected. If the land tax is abolished, no doubt the persons who receive the benefit o’f the abolition will have to pay more in income tax, and I estimate that about a third of the revenue lost by the abolition of the land. tax will be returned to the Treasury by increased income tax. However, I am very concerned about the matter, because if the land tax is abolished the Parliament will lose one more power that it has to increase food production and to ensure that land will be used properly. I say to honorable members opposite that they should evolve some system that will increase the utilization of the land. It is very difficult to get local government bodies and State governments to increase land taxes. All that the local government bodies want to do is to keep taxes down to a minimum. They say that land taxation is a matter for State governments, and the State governments say that it is a matter for the Australian Government. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) said that he was opposed to land taxation altogether, yet the followers of Henry George say that the only equitable tax is a land tax. Therefore, the contention of the honorable member for Capricornia is merely a matter of opinion. I was speaking recently to a non-Labour member of the South Australian Parliament. He said, “ I have been talking to farmers, and I have told them straight out that it does not matter what government they have, if they do not utilize their land properly, the government will have to make them do it.”
– The sooner the better.
– Yes. We should try to utilize the lands of this nation, although I do not mind if a man owns a big area of land and uses that land to its best advantage. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) said that honorable members who represented city electorates did not know anything about the country. We might not know much about it, but we do appreciate that although there may be a drought one year another year will be pretty fat. It must also be remembered that if a large estate be subdivided and four or five families established on it, the state will get from them much more in indirect taxation than it receives in direct and indirect taxation from the owner of the large area.
The abolition of the land tax will have an effect upon the absorption of immigrants, because immigrants also need land. I hope that the Government will evolve a better system of land taxation. It should be a system that will effectively break up large estates and make the land available to. the people. The Commonwealth has no direct control over housing, and it has no direct control over the settlement of people on the land. In both those cases we must take action through the States. The Government has decided to abolish land tax, and it will carry out its decision. I have no complaint about that. If members of the Opposition were in power, they, too, would give effect to their policies. This is a democratic country, and I expect the government of the day to use its majority in order to execute its wishes. However, when that majority is used to enforce a decision that is contrary to the best interests of the people, the Opposition has a duty to demonstrate to the people that the decision is bad and to endeavour to the best of its ability to prevent a wrong from being done. That is why I have spoken at length and have expressed my opinions on matters that honorable members opposite may not consider to be relevant to the bill but which, I am convinced, are closely related to it.
I shall not discuss at length the cost of collecting land tax. I merely point out that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) apparently misunderstood the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.Crean). The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said clearly that the cost of collecting the tax last year represented about 2 per cent. of the total amount of £6,500,000 collected. He remarked that details of collections for recent years were not available and that he had been obliged to refer to statistics for 1941 in order to obtain some idea of the numbers of properties in the various categories of valuation. He estimated that the cost of collecting land tax for 1952-53, if the tax were levied, would be not more than 5 per cent. of the total sum collected. The cost of collecting land tax should not affect our decision in this matter. Considerable sums would be collected if the tax were levied this year, and the costs of collection and of valuing properties would be relatively slight. A society with which I am associated owns property that would be liable to land tax. I am sure that the property could be valued without difficulty in two days. The cost of valuation, therefore, would be low. I admit that the valuation of other properties in many parts of Australia would be considerably more expensive. However, I accept the opinion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the costs associated with the levying of land tax this year would not exceed 5 per cent, of the total sum collected. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) who estimated that the cost would be £1,000,000, may have based his. calculations on cases of which he has knowledge. However, such differences of opinion are of slight importance.
The fundamental difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition arises from a principle. The Government is opposed to the principle of land tax. The Opposition supports the principle, because it believes that land tax is a fair and correct method of raising revenue. That is where the line of demarcation lies, and I shall fight the Government on that issue, not on the issue of the costs involved in the collection of land tax. Government supporters should base their arguments on their belief that the tax should not be levied and let the people know why they oppose it in principle. We shall tell the people why we consider the tax to be a fair and just means of raising revenue from the community at large for the purposes of government.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), in his customary way, has delivered a much more liberal speech than we usually hear from a member of the Opposition. Certainly he does not appear to be so socialistically inclined as do some of his colleagues who have already spoken in this debate. I complained of the incidence of land tax during the budget debate last year and expressed the hope that the Government some day would see its way clear to abolish the tax. I have not altered the opinion, which I have held for many years, that land tax is unsound and should be discontinued. The first Commonwealth land tax legislation was enacted by this Parliament 42 years ago, principally for the purpose of breaking up big estates. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Port Adelaide has said -about the revenue aspect of the tax, the objective of breaking up large estates was emphasized until the outbreak of World War I. Earlier this evening, I read a report of the speech that was made on the land tax legislation in 1910 by the then honorable member for Gwydir. He and other members of this House spoke at great length of the evils of large estates and urged the necessity for dividing them.
I shall state my objection to land tax in a few words. Any tax that is levied without the slightest regard for the income of the taxpayer is, in my opinion, a dangerous, and often inequitable, tax. For a long period when the prices of Australia’s primary products were at extraordinarily low levels, land tax was imposed upon many unfortunate landholders even in years when they operated at a loss. I can testify to the truth of that statement, and I am sure that many other honorable members can do so. Any tax of that nature is bad. My criticism of the tax could apply to city properties as well as to country properties, but I speak particularly of rural land because emphasis has been placed upon that aspect of the tax. Any tax that is levied during a period of financial loss is a tax upon the capital of the taxpayer and, therefore, is pernicious and entirely destructive of effort. A tax upon income is a tax upon profit that has been earned. But land tax has been imposed even when primary producers have suffered successive years of financial loss. Therefore, I congratulate the Government upon having taken steps to abolish it.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), speaking of two private banks, one of which, I think, was the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited, said that the abolition of land tax would benefit those institutions by £90,000 a year, which would go out of the country to absentee shareholders, and that not a penny of the tax remitted would be paid to the clerks employed by the banks. That argument was amplified by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). Their reasoning waa entirely fallacious. What will become of the money that the banks will save as a result of the abolition of land tax? Every intelligent person realizes that it will be added to their incomes. If a company sustains a loss on its year’s operations, obviously it will not suffer what, in effect, would be a capital levy upon its diminishing capital. But, if its operations are profitable, the saving as a result of the tax remission will swell its profit. The tax remission might amount to £10,000. What will become of the extra profit? The company may dispose of the money in several ways. First, it may increase the remuneration of its staff. Secondly, it may reduce the charges that it makes for the goods or services that it supplies to its customers. Thirdly, it may pay a higher rate of tax on its income.
The transference of the remitted tax to the income of the company must be of advantage to the community. But the honorable member for Melbourne andhis colleagues seem to think that the extra money will be paid intact, to shareholders either overseas or in Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne is not unintelligent, and I assume that he must have made in haste a statement for which he will repent at leisure. Surely he will admit, upon reflection, that his argument was puerile and incapable of holding water. The remission of land tax simply means that the returns of taxpayers will be inflated and that, if a profit is made, the company concerned will be liable to pay more income tax than would otherwise have been payable. The bill will remove the possibility of a levy being made on capital when a taxpayer is most in need of capital and will cause the tax liability of taxpayers to be increased in times of prosperity. The additional profits that companies and other taxpayers will make as a result of the abolition of land tax will raise them into higher income tax brackets, and the community will benefit.
One line of argument has been used repeatedly by members of the Opposition during this debate and will probably be used again, more for party political purposes than for the purpose of conducting an intelligent discussion of the bill.
Various honorable members have suggested that land tax was originally imposed for the purpose of breaking up big estates. They consider that it is proper to break up big estates. Therefore, because the Government proposes to repeal the land tax legislation after 42 years, they argue that it will put a stop to a highly desirable social and economic reform and will prevent the breaking up of big estates. Let us consider the facts. Not one member of the Opposition has yet adduced a fact to support the claim that land tax has been a means of breaking up big estates. I go farther than that, and say that the effect of the tax upon a great deal of land settlement in Australia, as I know it, and particularly in New South Wales, is most pernicious. It has worked in this way. Every man who has had any experience of closer settlement knows that particular conditions apply to mixed farming as distinct from dairy farming. If a property is more than 12 miles from a railhead, the settler is loaded with a series of costs which make it more difficult for him to produce at a profit. The further the holding is situated outside that zone, the greater is the loading against his chances of breaking even, particularly in seasons when prices are low. But when a tax is imposed upon properties that are so far from railheads that they could not in any circumstances be used for true closer settlement, the imposition cannot be justified under any conditions.
The land tax has had a most devastating result. From time to time, parts of Australia suffer severely from drought, but nearly every practical man will testify that, when prices are low, land-owners have overstocked their properties. Indeed, they stocked to capacity, rather than within safety limits, so that they could pay the tax. Yet the land tax was supposed to bring about closer settlement - save the mark! If, as has occurred, settlers were placed on the wrong kind of land, they were hounded off it by drought, and by their inability to carry on. The repeal of the Land Tax Act is a realistic step on the part of this Government to remove something which is fundamentally unsound. It is unsound from the settlement, financial and social stand-points. I remind the House of a few lines that I read in the Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics, published in April, 1951, by .the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The report contains .a survey of the Macintyre shire one of the richest districts of the north-west of New South Wales. I know it extremely well. It has a rainfall of between 25 and -30 inches a year and a rich volcanic soil, and is ideal for the purpose of closer .settlement. The survey reads as follows: -
The .average size of : holdings rose from 1;040 acres in the live years ended .1933-34 -to about 1,140 acres in 1949-50, while the number of holdings declined from 023 to 573 in ‘the same period.
The point I desire to make is that those changes occurred at .a time when we had the allegedly beneficial effects of the land tax. What is infinitely more to the point is that, in the period to which I ha;pe referred, there was an expansion of the area of land held by each settler, and an appreciable decline in the number of holdings. I remind Opposition members of an old axiom that I learned when I was a schoolboy, and I think, from their actions in the political arena outside this Parliament, that they are not unacquainted with it. The axiom is, “ A drop of honey catches more flies than a barrel of vinegar “. Opposition members advocate “ a barrel of vinegar “ for the .purpose of obtaining increased production. They say, “ Tax the man on the land! Screw it out of him ! “ I remind them that the Land Tax Act was designed to break up big estates, yet estates are aggregating again and again. Opposition members should look further afield. The land tax itself is fundamentally unsound. Why do .Opposition members not endeavour to find some other reasons for the tendency towards the reaggregation of properties? There is a deeper cause than that which can be removed by an additional tax. It may be removed by a reduction of tax, but it certainly will not be removed by an increase of tax to penal proportions.
In this particular case we can take .any of several courses. We can impose a tax for the specific -purpose of breaking up large estates. Opposition members say, “ When we are returned to office, we .shall re-impose land tax’”. They stand upon that statement. They are pledged to ce-impose .a tax .which this Government has found to be wrong. A government in future .may consider itself justified in re-imposing the land tax in order to raise additional revenue. In those circumstances, the means of raising additional! revenue would be .something which, in -my opinion, is close to .an amoral approach ±o the subject. A tax of this kind may .he used in order to ‘confiscate land. In other words, the tax cam be made so severe that the -owners will .simply be ‘forced .to hand, over their land to the Government, whether or not the ‘Government desir.es to take it, and the owners wish “to dispose of it. If a Labour government adopts that policy, it will -fly in the face of ‘experience. ‘Governments in New -South Wales have pursued that policy .at various times. One of -them even introduced legislation with -the object of imposing a tax at the rate of 5s. in the £1, but abandoned the plan rather hastily. It realized that legislation of that kind would destroy the equity in the land. I urge the Opposition to mark my words on this matter. Honorable -gentlemen opposite have forecast that a Labour government will r.eimpose the land tax, and imply that the rate will be heavier than the present rate. I issue the warning .that immediately a tax is raised -above a certain limit the -Government will destroy overnight the equity of innumerable .owners of small holdings -who have not a 1 Rwe equity in the land. If land were .thrown en masse on to the market overnight, the values would fall, -and a government responsible for such an action would be in much the same position a-s Samson when h« pulled down the -pillar of the temple. For that reason, I strongly urge the Labour party, before it carries out its threat to re-impose the land tax to the point tried on several occasions in New South Wales, to consider the full implications of what it would be attempting to do.
The implication of the argument put forward by the Opposition is that large estates everywhere and all the time are not in the best interests of the community. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr.. Thompson) diverged somewhat from that view, but the general tenor of the argument advanced by the Opposition is that large estates are not in the best interests of the community. I shall deal briefly with that contention. Some men who take to the land have great’ executive ability and considerable aptitude for the work. Many men work successfully under the direction of other men, but are not capable of making a success of the land when they work it for themselves. Let us suppose that the owner of a large property is using it in the best interests of the community, is applying his intelligence to the development of his land, and is employing and housing his staff under good conditions. What is wrong with that situation ? Why pick on the man on the land? Why not say that, in principle, every big store is fundamentally wrong? Why assume that the approach to the land must be different from the approach to any other activity?
Some of the greatest debacles in land settlement in New South Wales, with which I am acquainted, have been caused by attempts to subdivide grazing areas which are suitable for nothing else but grazing. Why? For the simple reason that a subdivision can not carry more stock. The land is simply not suitable for cultivation. It is not a mixed farming property. What happens? When the first glow of youth passes, the settler finds that he cannot make any progress, and sells the property to the large landowner with the adjoining property. “ Ah “, say members of the Labour party, “ We shall not allow the settler to sell out “. What is the implication of that statement? If the children cannot get employment, and if the wife is sick and tired of the property, is the settler to be forced to walk off it and lose everything? Or is he to be permitted to sell to the owner of the adjoining property, who is able to pay him a reasonable price for his holding?
This land business, whether we approach it from the taxation or any other standpoint, is not for amateurs. It bristles with all sorts of difficulties. The Government, in introducing this bill, says, in effect, “We shall remove one of the things which is seriously hampering production. In doing so, we shall not discriminate between owners of city and country properties. If they make a bigger profit, they may use it for the benefit of the community in various ways. They may make a bigger contribution to Consolidated Revenue, or reduce the price of their goods “. The Government has introduced a perfectly sound piece of legislation, and has had the courage to stand up against the barrage of criticism fired by the Labour party, and a certain amount of misrepresentation, whether it be intentional or unintentional, of the purpose of the bill. I give this measure my wholehearted approval.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), towards the conclusion of his speech, asked, “ Why pick on the man on the land ? “ He had in mind the owner of a big property who utilizes it to the best advantage, and treats his employees well. The honorable member asked, “ Why not say that big business in the cities is fundamentally wrong? “ The question posed by the honorable member raises an interesting subject for speculation, which I should like to examine; but before doing so, I point out that the honorable member did not disclose what his attitude would be if a big grazier did not utilize his land to the best advantage. Honorable members know that some property owners are content to operate in a leisurely manner and draw from the land only sufficient income for their needs without endeavouring to work it to its full productive capacity. They know also that Australia’s greatest need now is to increase primary production so that goods may be sold overseas to give Australia the credit with which to buy the things that it . must have. Surely such land should be made available to other members of the community so that it will be used to full productive capacity. Ownership of land implies certain social obligations. I believe that a man has a right to own private property. That is one of the inherent rights of a human being. Everybody has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every man should have the right to rear a family as he thinks fit and not according to the dictates of an omnipotent State.
But if we follow the implications that arise from those rights, we come to the further thought that the principal cause of social unrest and trouble in the world is the confinement of the basic rights to private property to a very small minority. Only a few people in the community are able to exercise their right to own private property. The great majority do not own any property and are prevented from doing so. That is the basis of social insecurity and unrest. The ownership of a moderate amount of property is the basis of security for the individual man. Given that asset, he can look ahead with confidence. Such being the case, one of the most important things that a State can do in the modern world is to enable the majority of the people to exercise their right to property. We should direct our attention towards achieving a state of society in which the ownership of property is diffused throughout the community and is not confined to a small minority.
In both the city and the country, the same unfortunate tendency towards the aggregation of property can be seen. Honorable members have quoted figures which show that ownership of rural land is being concentrated more and more in the hands of fewer people. In the years from 1939 up to 1950-51, the number of operational farms in Australia declined from 253,536 to 243,626. That means that about 10,000 fewer farmers are operating in Australia now compared with the number who were on the land before the war. In other words, the process of aggregation is spreading. The solid farmers have been buying adjoining farms and the average area of Australian farms is becoming bigger. The same process is apparent in the cities. There is a tendency towards monopoly. Big aggregations of wealth and capital resources are being concentrated in the hands of fewer persons. A few big firms are extending physical control over the resources of the country. It is a deplorable tendency. In respect to both the rural lands and the metropolitan industrial undertakings, this Parliament should set about breaking up the monopolies and preventing their spread. Unfortunately such a process conflicts with politics. We should try to achieve a state of society in which individuals throughout the community will be able to own property in their own right. Everybody should own a home. In the industrial sphere, the objective should be co-partnership and the sharing of profits. The workers should have a voice in the management and control of the firms for which they work. We should aim to restore property to the people so that every individual will have a share and thereby obtain security for himself and his family. The same principle should apply to rural land.
Much has been said about the effect of the land tax on the aggregation of country properties. The Government proposes to abolish the land tax which was introduced in 1910 by the Fisher Government and has operated ever since. Honorable members on the Government side have not advocated that all land taxes should be completely abolished. They have supported a proposal for the abolition of the federal land tax but it is not the only form of land tax in the community. In Victoria the State Government levies land tax. I do not know the position in other States, but it is one source of revenue upon which the Victorian Government relies. Bates that are imposed by local government authorities are another form of land tax. They form the basis of all local government revenue. I believe that the local government authorities have an important part to play in the administrative functions of the community. They are nearest to the people. They are elected from a small community and are acquainted with the intimate details of the community’s needs. Many individuals are in direct personal contact with the representatives whom they have elected to lie local government bodies.
– There is not a very wide appreciation of their value in this Parliament.
– Perhaps there is not sufficient appreciation of local government authorities throughout the community. I believe that some functions of government, including some that are being exercised by this Parliament, should be put back into the hands of the local government authorities who are in the closest contact with the people. Their problem is principally one of finance. If I had my way, I would allow local government authorities to assume much wider functions than those they have now. Their main fu actions are to maintain municipal areas, roads and streets, collect garbage, provide street lighting, maintain playgrounds and other facilities of that nature. Within their sphere they include health, infant welfare, creches and playgrounds. I believe that some of the responsibility for the administration of social services might be placed in their hands instead of being centralized in the Government at Canberra. The local go.ernment authorities rely on the rates that arc levied on land, and they are actually another form of land tax. I have not heard honorable members on the Government side extend their criticism of the principle of the land tax to the taxation that is imposed by local authorities. They have confined their remarks to the levy that has been imposed by the Australian Government and have not attempted to attack the principle of taxation on land.
One important question is whether the original intention of those who imposed the land tax in 1910 has been achieved, and if not, whether a continuation of the tax, is desirable or justified. Honorable members have quoted from, the speech that was delivered by Mr. Andrew Fisher when he introduced the tax. It is clear from his speech that the purpose of the Fisher Government was twofold. In the first place the imposition of the land tax was a step towards breaking up the large estates and placing land on the market so that it would be available for closer settlement. The Government hoped that land would then be available for the landhungry people of that day. The problem of providing land was not as acute then as it is now, but it received the attention of the legislators of that day. In the second place, the tax was imposed to raise revenue for the Government. In those clays the revenue that was available to the Australian Government was limited. Methods of collecting taxation had not been developed nearly as much as they are now and the responsibilies of the infant government were more restricted. Honorable members must admit that the federal land tax has not been a great success in breaking up the big estates. That was one of its primary objectives, but I do not think that that has been achieved. If we still desire to break up big estates which are not being utilized to their full productive capacity - and I have not heard many people argue that we should not attempt to achieve that desirable social purpose - we must ask ourselves whether the federal land tax, as it has operated in the past, has been able to help us to do so, or whether another method should be adopted. I do not believe that the federal land tax, as it has been administered and applied in this country, is an effective weapon for that purpose. There are two- ways in which we could break up large aggregations of land that are not being fully utilized. ‘ We could increase the rate of land tax to such a degree that the holders of such land would be forced to sell it, or the States, in exercise of - their sovereign powers, could resume the land compulsorily. That power of resumption resides, not in this Parliament but in the State parliaments. Although some honorable members on this side of the House have said they believe that a Labour Government should increase the rate of land tax in order to break up large aggregations of land, I believe that the method of compulsory resumption is more desirable.
There is a great need to get more people on the land in this country. Figures show that, the process of aggregation is continuing in Australia at a time when the opposite process should be in force. The number of farms in this country has decreased by 10,000 in a period of ten years, but I should like at least 10,000 more farmers to be placed on the land every five years. When we are considering how we can get the additional farmers that we need, we should look at the land in this country which is not being fully utilized. We should look, first, at the tens of thousands of acres of good land which, with modern methods of opening up and clearing and of adding trace elements and phosphates, are still available for settlement. When that land is being utilized we should turn our attention to the tens of thousands of acres that are in the hands of a few people but are not being utilized properly, and we should resume that land compulsorily so that it will be available for the tens of thousands of additional farmers that we need. My personal view is that resumption is the correct method by which to take land from owners who are not utilizing it in a proper social manner, and to make it available for all the people whom we wish to put upon the land.
The second objective of this tax was ro raise revenue. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) says “ Hear, hear “. The revenue from the tax this ‘.year will be about £7,000,000. That is not a very large sum, especially in view of the fact that sums paid in land tax are deductible items for the purposes of income tax. If the land tax were abolished, a proportion of the revenue now derived from it would go into the coffers of the Commonwealth Treasury through the medium of income tax collections. Therefore, the tax has not been a great success as a revenueraising device. A sum of £7,000,000 is inconsiderable, compared with the total revenue from all taxes.
An examination of the figures which show the type of land from which land tax revenue is derived, reveals that most of that revenue comes from urban lands rather than from rural lands. That is an interesting commentary upon the failure of the tax to effect the breaking up of large estates. When the tax was first imposed, most of the revenue came from rural lands, but now that position has been reversed and most of the revenue comes, not from rural lands but from urban lands. In 1914-15, a few years after the tax was first imposed, the unimproved value of town lands for the purposes of land tax assessment was £75,000,000, and the value of rural lands was £137,000,000. At that time, the unimproved value of rural lands exceeded considerably that of town lands. But in 1941-42 that position had been reversed, and the unimproved value of town lands a3 assessed for land tax purposes had risen to £158,000,000, whilst the unimproved value of rural lands as assessed for the same purposes had fallen to £118,000,000. The value of town lands was much in excess of the value of rural lands.
– That is a good reason why the land tax should be abolished.
– That may be a reason why the land tax should be abolished, if the honorable gentleman accepts my argument that the way in which to take possession of the big estates that are not being properly utilized is to resume them. If we agree that resumption is the proper or more desirable method to adopt, the fact that most of the revenue from the land tax now comes from town lands is an argument in favour of the abolition of the tax upon country lands and its retention upon city lands. The revenue derived from city lands is considerable. In my opinion , the principles enunciated by Henry George, with which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) dealt at some length, apply with much more force to city properties than to country properties. The .well-known Howey estate in Melbourne is owned by some individuals who live in England. They own that part of the City of Melbourne because one of their ancestors, when he visited Australia about 100 years ago, bought a little block of land in Melbourne for a very insignificant sum. Now, because the City of Melbourne has developed into a great metropolis, the value of that land in the heart of the city has increased tremendously. The land is now worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and those people have a most valuable property in their possession.
– It was worth £600,000 at the turn of the century.
– I do not know the exact figure, but the value of the land has increased enormously. That increase is the result, not of any effort made by the owners, but of the growth of the City of Melbourne around the land. The principle enunciated by Henry George is that land in this country which increases in value, not as the result of anything put into it by the owners, but as the result of the growth of the community around it, should bear a substantial tax, and that a proportion of the unearned increment or of the increased value of the land should be taken from the owners in the form of a land tax and paid to the community. I support the application of that principle to city lands that have increased in value in that manner. When we compare the revenue derived from the land tax imposed upon such city properties with the increase of the value of those properties, we see that the amount of land tax derived from them is not sufficient. According to figures that I have, revenue from the federal land tax levied upon rural lands was £895,000 in 1942, and £1,394,000 in 1914. The revenue from the tax imposed upon city lands, or urban lands, as they are called, increased from £865,000 in 1914 to £2,000,000 in 1942. I believe that those city lands which have increased in value to a considerable degree should be subject to land tax at such a rate that a proportion of the added value would be drawn off and paid back to the community. 1 believe that, in the case of city properties, such action would be eminently justified.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that, after some of the added value has been drawn off, the value of the land should be pegged?
– I suggest that it should be drawn off by a fixed amount of land tax to be paid each year. I admit that it would be a form of capital tax, but I believe that, in the circumstances, it would be justified. I think that a distinction should be made between land like the Howey estate in Melbourne and country lands that are far from developed areas.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members on this side of the House are in favour of the abolition of the land tax, whilst members of the Opposition are opposed to it. The arguments of the Opposition have revealed the foundation of the policy of the Labour party. Honorable gentlemen opposite have used the word “ squatter “ frequently in this debate. That word can be used properly to describe only early land-holders in Australia - men who came to this country as pioneers and took up land. The squatters died long ago, but some of their descendants may own the land that they took up. No matter how the members of the Opposition may try to twist the meaning of the word, they cannot refer properly to any other type of man as a squatter. They have used the word wrongly. I believe that most of the men on fairly large holdings have started from absolutely nothing and have made a success of their farms by hard work. Of course, the Labour party opposes any man who has made a success in that way.
– To substantiate my argument I have to point only to the trade union policy under which the rate of work for all workers, on a job must be the rate of the slowest worker. When a bricklayer has laid a certain number of bricks the “ darg “ prevents him from laying any more on that day. The Labour party adopts the same attitude in relation to rural industry. It disapproves of people who succeed by hard work. I believe that this tax has been bad right from the start, and I welcome its abolition. After all, what is the use of trying to tax producers off the land?
Who is to be the judge of whether a farmer is putting all his land to the best possible use? Sometimes farmers have good reason for not using land to its full capacity. I have known of men who kept their properties lightly stocked and who would have been regarded by some people as not putting their land to its full use. When a drought hit the country those men were able to assist in restocking the nation’s farms because they had been able to maintain high class cattle on their lightly stocked properties during the drought. [Quorum formed.’] Of course, I know that this subject is most offensive to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who drew attention to the state of the House, because he is strongly in favour of people doing the least work possible. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), no doubt misled by his colleague, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), referred to country towns that had not progressed as a result of the ownership by certain individuals of large areas of land in the vicinity. He referred, in particular, to the town of Dunkeld in the western district of Victoria. Anybody who knows that area knows that the reason why Dunkeld has not progressed is that it is close to the thriving town of Hamilton and good roads and motor cars take the people there. Any one who knows the area knows that big properties around Dunkeld, such as Mount Sturgeon, were cut up sometime ago. If any further illustration is necessary I require only to mention Coleraine, where big properties like Hilgay, Tahara, Winninburn Konongwootong, Mount Koroite. Mun.thum Gringegalgona, Dudas and Melville Forest have been cut up. Dunkeld has not grown much because of the proximity to Hamilton, the population of which is increasing. It seems to me to be wrong for the honorable member for Melbourne to step into places of which he has no knowledge.
It appears to me from the statements of honorable members opposite, that this issue boils down to whether we should have private ownership or complete socialization of the land. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said that the present position was aggravated by private ownership. Other honorable members opposite also spoke about private ownership, and it appears that, as with so many other subjects, the Labour party has not come to any definite decision about where it stands in relation to private ownership or the complete socialization of all land. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) asked the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) what he would do about a man who owned a large area of land and was not producing to the limit of its capacity. I pose another question. What should we do about a man who has a small area of land which is not producing to the limit of its capacity? After all, as one honorable member has said, what we want is not more farmers but more good farmers. It does not make a great deal of difference how a certain area of land is held, so long as it is producing to the limit of its capacity. Every honorable member who has been around the country knows that there are many people who own small areas of land that they are not working well. What is to be done about them? It appears from the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner that their land should be confiscated after an investigation by some sort of gestapo, which would- probably be formed of people who have no expert knowledge of the land, because men with expert knowledge do not take up that kind of job. These gestapo investigators would decide who was to be allowed to retain land and who was to have his land confiscated. We do not want that kind of thing in this country. Honorable members on this side of the House are against any proposition of that nature.
The Labour party promised to reimpose and increase the land tax if it is returned to office. By doing so it will only burden the men who are trying to do their best to produce from the land. The Labour party will tax them off the land. A farmer who was running his property to the best of his ability would only decrease production if the tax were increased, and we should have less production at a time when there should be more. That would be the only logical result of a reimposition and increase of the tax. It has been suggested that only large land-holders wth 60,000 to 200,000 acres of land are paying land tax. I represent an electorate in which farms are not particularly big but many owners in the past have paid this tax.
– No wonder the honorable gentleman supports this bill.
– Of course I support the bill. By doing so I am representing my electorate. I know that this country was built to its present standard on the proceeds of the land, and I am well aware of the fact that we can only maintain our standard of prosperity by continuing to produce more from the land and to foster the men who have done so much to produce wealth from the soil. The area of which I am speaking has only moderate holdings, and the landholders are paying land tax and appreciate the Government’s decision to abolish it.
Honorable members opposite have given various estimates of the amount that it costs to collect land tax. One honorable member said it cost about £1,000,000 a year, whilst another said that it cost about £250,000. I suppose we could take a figure between the two extremes and accept that as likely to be the correct figure. But the cost of the collection of the tax is only half the Story. What about all the form filling and other work that the primary producer is involved in as a result of this tax at times when he is also busily engaged in his proper production activities? Why should the man on the land be taxed more than other people ? Surely he is taxed enough already ! An honorable member opposite mentioned the wageearner. The man on the land is different from the wage-earner, because the wageearner is protected by the C series index and, lately, has been protected very well by it. People on the land have been suffering ever since this country was settled, from floods, droughts and bush fires which sometimes upset primary production for years. Yet the Opposition is promising that if it is returned to office it will reintroduce and increase this tax to such an alarming degree that it will, in fact, tax primary producers off the land. Has anybody ever heard of anything so fantastic in a land that depends on its primary producers ? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) said to-day in an interjection that people on the land favoured the land tax.
– So they do. They want to see large estates broken up.
– The honorable member must represent a very queer kind of land-holder., because it is the first time that I have ever heard of people who say that they like to be taxed. If the honorable member can take me to anybody in his electorate who pays .land tax and who will say to me, “ I pay land tax and like paying it “, I shall be convinced of the truth of his statement. Things are becoming fantastic when an honorable member interjects to say that people like to pay taxes. Certain taxes are necessary, some are unnecessary, and some arc unjustified. This tax is unjust. lc gives the Government great pleasure io abolish it. We believe that its abolition will do much to assist production. If it does not increase production then it will at least give a fairer deal to the man on the land. Only a short time ago the Opposition was crying out about the rates of taxes on the man on the land. I believe also that the rates are exorbitant in some cases. Now, however, when we are abolishing a tax on land-holders, they are still crying out. The Parliament should support any relief that can be given to the primary producers. It has been pointed out that a considerable amount of the revenue derived from this tax is collected in the cities. How often do we read in the newspapers that shops in suburban areas are able to sell certain goods a little cheaper than they can be sold by city stores because they are not subject to the exorbitant rates that are levied in the city area ? Every one is aware that competition., which is the life of trade, is so keen at present that any relief that is given to city traders will be passed on to the community in the form of reduced prices. Furthermore, such relief will eventually be passed on to the man on the land because, finally, he foots the bill. I am pleased that members of the Australian Labour party have come out in the open and stated, even proudly, that if Labour ever regains office it will re-introduce land tax at much higher rates than those that have operated in the past. The people should be made aware of the attitude of the Australian Labour party upon this matter.. Although that party generally keeps many of its intentions under cover, it has frankly stated its intention in this respect, and the people will not forget it. I support the bill.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.. ARCHIE Cameron.)
Majority …. . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House be now adjourned.
– Yesterday, in this chamber, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) made certain charges of political partisanship against the New South Wales Government which received very wide publicity in this morning’s press. The statements that the honorable member made in support of those charges were incorrect and, therefore, I take this opportunity to give to the House information that has been placed in my posses sion in relation to them. The honorable member made the charges under two headings. First, he claimed that the New South Wales Government, through the Housing Commission of New South Wales, resumed land six years ago that was owned by his brother and himself and that it had refused, or had failed, to pay for it even up to the present. Secondly, he said that a house that had been erected on that land had been made available to Mr. Jack Ferguson, who, at that time, was president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, and he made the. charge that such action constituted an act of party political preference. It is very easy for me to dispose of those charges.
I shall deal first with the second of them. Mr. Ferguson was amply qualified to be given the tenancy of that house because at the time he had a family of eight children.
– What was his income?
– His income at that time was within the acceptable bracket to qualify him for a commission house. Despite the fact that he was president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, which fact, of course, in the eyes of the honorable member for Bennelong, enabled him to obtain a preference, he lived in an emergency housing settlement with his family for a number of years until he qualified in that way, which is recognized to be the hardest way, for a commission house. Thus, the honorable member’s statement in respect of the granting of a commissionhouse to Mr. Ferguson was entirely incorrect. There was not the slightest basis for any suggestion that he was given preference over any other person. On the contrary, he endured with his family the hardship of living in emergency housing accommodation for a number of years until he qualified for a commission house.
I should not worry about dealing with the other charge of party political partisanship that the honorable member for Bennelong made against the New South Wales Government in relation to his brother and himself, but for the fact that he ventilated it in this chamber. I have been reliably informed that six years ago the Housing Commission of New South Wales resumed, for housing purposes, the land that was owned by the honorable member and his brother, and that they have not yet been paid for that land. However, the facts are that the ValuerGeneral in New South Wales assessed the value of that land at £1,900, and, although he has reviewed the matter, he cannot agree that the land is worth one penny in excess of that amount. But, I am told, the honorable member demanded that the New South Wales Government pay to his brother and himself for that land a purchase price of £11,300. The Valuer- General in that State, who is an impartial public servant, insists that the land is not worth more than £1,900; and I understand that a cheque for that amount has been available to the honorable member and his brother for some considerable time past, but they refuse to accept it. Neither will they follow the other course that is open to them, which is to apply to the Land Valuation Court in that State for a review of the official valuation. If they took such a course, and the court fixed the value of the land, at a price that was £1, or more, in excess of the ValuerGeneral’s valuation of £1,900, they would not be liable to pay one penny m costs. Therefore, if they believe that their land is worth more than £1,900, and are prepared to take their case to the appropriate court, they will have good reason to expect justice. Those are matters purely for the honorable member for Bennelong and his brother. All that I can say is that the honorable member misled this House and the people when he posed as the victim of the political partisanship of the New South Wales Government by claiming that it had resumed his land and had refused to pay for it.
– The attack upon my personal integrity is only what can be expected from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The honorable member has made definite charges in this House without checking his facts. What he has told honorable members to-night is completely wrong and untrue. He said that he had obtained certain information from a reliable source. The only source from which he could obtain the information that he laid before the House to-night is a source that should not be available to every citizen because it has particulars of the affairs of private individuals. Those affairs are not public property, and obviously there has been a leakage from the New South Wales Government. I shall deal first with my charges about Mr. “ Jackie “ Ferguson, an ex-federal president of the Australian Labour party, and an ex-State president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. This House has been told of that gentleman’s application for, and his subsequent tenancy of, a New South Wales Housing Commission home notwithstanding the fact that he held three highly paid positions and is at present the chairman of the New South Wales Milk Board, which position carries a salary of more than £2,500 a year. In view of those facts, can the honorable member for Eden-Monaro talk about political partisanship ? Mr. Ferguson has always been a highly paid man, and he was fully, capable of obtaining premises in the same way as other citizens have to. obtain them. But he preferred to obtain his house in the way that has been detailed.
I shall now deal with the matter of the land that has been resumed by the New South Wales Housing Commission. It was not my personal property, it was owned by a company of which my brother and I are directors. No claim for £11,000 compensation was made when the land was resumed. The allegation that such a claim was made is simply not true. I have not the exact figures, but assuming that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was right when he stated that £11,000 was the figure, he should remember that the £11,000 included the price of the land and compensation for the loss of profits in regard to eleven contracts to build homes lor ex-servicemen. The compensation sought was to compensate a building company which was attempting to house the people. The building company had been operating for many years. In 1927, it acquired this land, for which it paid £4,000. In 1938-39, before the last war commenced, it built a number of houses to face a street that already existed, and sold them. It then prepared a subdivision plan, cleared the land and spent certain money. The war then broke out and the whole matter was abandoned for the time being. In 1945, after the war had concluded, the company recommenced its operations on the land. It employed surveyors, cleared the land, had the subdivision approved, had the sewerage system connected to the land, gave the necessary guarantee and got the electric power lines, water service and all facilities extended to the property. It was then ready to go ahead with its building operations, lt called tenders for the construction of the necessary roads. Then it entered into eleven contracts with ex-servicemen to build homes for them. It provided material for 34 houses, because by then there were 34 allotments of land. At that stage the New South Wales Housing Commission said to the company, “ We want that land for the commission “. The building company ‘ made representations to the Premier of New South Wales, who was at that time Mr. McGirr My brother approached Mr. McGirr with Mr. Geraghty and asked him to abandon his proposals. Mr. McGirr was asked this question : - “ What do you propose to do with this land?” He replied, “We want it in order to build houses on it for the people “. My brother then said, “ It is the business of this company to build houses. Can you not get land for yourselves somewhere else, because if you prevent this company from building the proposed 34 houses the company will have to go out and scrounge on the market for more land because it has none available to it at present “.
The New South Wales ValuerGeneral’s valuation had been made on the area before it was subdivided. Tho valuation may have been £1,900 at that stage, notwithstanding that £4,000 was paid for the land in 1927. Everybody knows that the Valuer-General reduced his valuations to a minimum when the last war broke out. Land values were pegged at the rate ruling on the 10th February. 1942, and at the time of resumption the New South Wales Government was claiming that land should be resumed at 1942 values. That matter has been debated quite often in this
House, and I shall not traverse it again. When the New South Wales Housing Commission resumed the land, a valuation was made by a reputable city valuer, Mr. R. V. Dimond upon whose valuations the company’s claims were made. Compensation was assessed for the eleven contracts and for the balance of the land, and a claim was made for the loss of profits. That matter had no relation to the value of the vacant land so that the charge that the sum of £11,000 was claimed for the vacant land is completely untrue and without foundation in any shape or form. Then an extraordinary thing happened. Instead of building on the 34 lots that it had acquired in 1946, the New South Wales Housing Commission built on only some of them, and even in 1949 there were still seventeen lots of the land vacant. The building company wanted to go ahead with its programme, and offered the New South Wales Housing Commission £300 each for the remaining seventeen lots. That was done even though the company had not at that time received one penny for the land. That offer was refused. Not yet have all the lots that were resumed six years ago by the New South Wales Housing Commission been built on. Therefore, many people have been deprived of homes. If that can be said in all decency to be fair, then I should like to know what is unfair.
I shall now deal with the matter of the company’s right to approach the New South Wales Land and Valuation Court. The company objected to the valuation of the New South Wales Government, and engaged solicitors and valuers, who are now negotiating with the New South Wales Housing Commission. However, it should be remembered that the commission can at any time put this matter before the Land and Valuation Court. It should also be remembered that even after six years the company has not received one’ penny in regard to the land that it owns and which the New South Wales Housing Commission has used. T am not in the least afraid of any investigation of this or any other transaction that I have ever been associated with. T defy any honorable member to bring to this House proof of any kind that I have ever been, associated with an unfair transaction, or with anything that can bo charged against my integrity. I think that the story that I have told is an exposition of the type of thing that is being done to land-owners in New South Wales. The New South Wales Government is putting the steamroller over private citizens; it is confiscating their land and is preventing the best use of land in the interests of homeless people.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! The arguments that are now proceeding in several parts of the House must cease.
– It is most deplorable that an honorable member should attack another honorable member in this House without being sure of his charges. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was merely talking out of the mouth of somebody in the New South Wales Housing Commission whom he telephoned to-day, and whose information he has treated as factual. The least that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro can do in the light of what I have said - and if he wants verification he can have it - is to apologize in this chamber for the imputation contained in his speech to-night. Eis charges are simply not true.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If there are any apologies to be offered, they should be offered by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), because of his attack in this House upon Mr. John Ferguson, who is a private citizen and is unable to protect himself. That gentleman is a former federal president of the Australian Labour party and a former State president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Bennelong said that Mr. Ferguson obtained an advantage over other applicants for New South Wales Housing Commission homes, and that he was not within the class of citizens entitled to receive such accommodation because he held three highly paid positions. Mr. Ferguson, unlike the honorable member for Bennelong, is a poor man. He has held many positions, but all of them except one were honorary. The only position for which he was paid was that of secretary of the New South Walesbranch of the Australian Railways Union.
– The honorable member is forgetting Mr. Ferguson’s position as a member of the New South WalesLegislative Council.
– I thank the honorable member for reminding me of that. About twelve months before he relinquished his position in the Australian Railways Union, Mr. Ferguson, a& a member of the New South WalesLegislative Council, was paid £300 a year. That is mere chicken feed to the money most honorable membersopposite are receiving from their directorates and other positions. Mr. Ferguson, like all trade union officials, was a relatively poorly paid man. He was receiving no more than about £1,000 a year at the relevant time, and he had a wife and eight children to support. He was forced to obtain emergency housing accommodation, and he ultimately got a New South Wales Housing Commission home. The honorable member for Bennelong brought all this trouble on himself. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Ever since the honorable member for Bennelong has been a member of this Parliament he has spoken about Sydney County Council politics, and has made constant attacks upon the New South Wales Government. For him this is not a place to expound views for the benefit of the Australian people, but a forum to ventilate his own particular grievances and phobias. Yesterday he attacked the New South Wales Government, and almost charged it with corruption in regard to the acquisition of his land. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) states the facts of the matter, as he has been able to ascertain them, the honorable member for Bennelong demands apologies. I hope that in the future the honorable member will address himself to the problems of the nation and leave his Sydney County Council politics behind him, because he is not increasing his stature in this Parliament nor is he doing any service to his constituents by waging continuous vendettas. He has mo right to an apology. If any apologies are to be made he should make them.
.- In recent times there has been considerable discussion in this House in connexion with the activities of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. The administration and general conduct of that organization has been under fairly severe, and justifiable, criticism from this side of the Parliament. I have received from the acting president of the New South “Wales Branch of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia a lengthy complaint concerning the conduct of hostels in New South “Wales, retrenchments of staff, and the repudiation of promises that were made to certain employees of Commonwealth Hostels Limited when they were taken over from the Department of Labour and National Service. The letter states -
It absorbed the majority of the staff of the Migrant Workers’ Accommodation Division of the Department of Labour and National Service (both permanent and temporary). In inducing the staff of the Division to become employees of the Company, the then Secretary of the Department Mr. W. Funnell who is and then was Chairman of Directors of the Company, told them that their continued employment with the Company was assured, as there would be 35,000 Migrant workers accommodated by the end of 1952, and their security of employment would not suffer.
The writer has attached a copy of a statement prepared for the purpose of inducing clerical officers of the department to accept employment with the company. That statement includes a number of elaborate promises and a list of precautions and safeguards that were supposed to .be observed in the interests of the employees concerned. On the strength of that invitation from the chairman of directors of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, 130 clerks decided to transfer to the company and terminated their employment in Public Service departments. Subsequently, Commonwealth Hostels Limited issued notices of dismissal to a considerable number of them. The letter states -
Last week as a result of some of the staff having received verbal notice that there would be retrenchments mounting up to 40, I interviewed the Acting General Manager of the Company (Mr. Bruce Brown) in company with some of the employees affected by the proposed retrenchments.
Ninety per cent, of the males among the 40 being or to be retrenched, are returned soldiers.
One particularly bad case is that of a man aged 59 years who has had 13 years service with both the Department and Company (Service with the Department counts as service with the Company ) . When he left the Department, he had to withdraw from the Provident Fund. If he can remain in employment with the Company until he attains BO years of age he will be due for furlough or its cash value if retrenched. By sacking him now, the Company can avoid payment of this money. What a horribly soulless way to effect economies.
At the same time as retrenching, the Company is advertising for three qualified accountants. Although the men interviewed have not been informed at any stage that they were inefficient and notwithstanding that some are well qualified to hold such positions - one mon is the holder of a Diploma in economics and commerce - these men have not been offered the jobs. The only course the Company will adopt is that they will be considered along with any outsider, according to qualifications, if they apply for the jobs. The Union’s contention is that if they are properly qualified, they should have absolute preference in these jobs.
The acting president of the branch points out, amongst the shortcomings of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, that the administrative organization is top-heavy. He adds -
In addition, I have just been informed that the Company is retaining Migrants against Australians. It is also retaining a Personnel Staff of seven at a total yearly salary of £9,400. Is this economy? All Australian staff would not warrant such a big office to deal with employment. In addition, there is a Personnel Officer in each Region.
Having regard to extravagance of the Company £ 30,000 for “Keston”, £20,000 for a Nursery at Bunnerong, never used, I think that the retention of Migrants and the sacking of public servants is a direct attempt to pave the way for a lowering of rates and conditions in the very near future.
The letter covers a number of other points all of which have an important bearing on the retrenchments and the general administration of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. The writer has attached a statement issued on behalf of the company which purports to set out the basis on which retrenchments are to be made. Another enclosure with the letter is a copy of a petition that was sent to the Prime Minister by the Staff Appeal Committee on behalf of the 42 employees who are to be dismissed. I shall not read all the details that have been supplied to me. The acting president of the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia lias gone to considerable pains to present in detail the facts in relation to the proposed dismissals. He rightly points out that promises made by Commonwealth Hostels Limited to its employees hu ve been repudiated. Evidently the company is following the example of the Government by making promises and then repudiating them one after the other at break-neck speed.
The letter refers to extravagance associated with the administration of the hostels organization and states that the retrenchments arc to be made at the expense of employees in the ranks whilst a. top-heavy administrative organization will continue to enjoy all the plums and draw high salaries. That fact indicates that economies might best be made by a reorganization of the administrative staff. [ bring this matter to the attention of i.he House in accordance with the request that has been made to me by an official of a trade union that has many thousands of members in New South Wales. It is not a Communist-controlled organization, because it is under the control of members of the Australian Labour party. I ask the Minister concerned to take prompt action. This is not the first occasion on which members of the Opposition have found it necessary to discuss in this House the administrative shortcomings of the company. I shall be glad to submit to the Government all the correspondence on the subject that I have in my possession, and I hope that a careful investigation will be made. [ consider that a complete inquiry should be made into the activities of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, particularly in relation to these charges of maladministration, which have been made by a responsible official of a trade union.
– Is the author of the letter a Communist or an Australian?
– I take no notice of the interjection because the honorable member talks so much about the Communist party that I think he must have been bitten by a red-backed spider. I ask the
Government to take appropriate action toll ave the charges investigated.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government a matter that affects the employment of workers in the match manufacturing industry in the electorate of Yarra. I have received a petition from 800 employees of the match factory of Bryant and May Proprietary Limited who have informed me that they are now working only three days a week and that there is a strong possibility that they may be laid off altogether. Another match factory has had to be completely closed temporarily. The simple fact is that the manufacturers cannot sell their product because of the competition of imported lighters. I do not contend that people should be prevented from using petrol lighters if they wish to do so, or that the Government should go out of its way in order to afford protection to an industry that cannot hold its own against competition. However, the unfortunate fact in this instance is that matches alone, of all household requirements, have been singled out for discriminatory treatment. They share with cigarettes, tobacco, cigars and beer the unenviable distinction of having an excise duty imposed upon them. As a result, the price of matches has risen to 2s. Id. for a dozen boxes and, because of that high price, the match industry cannot compete against imported petrol lighters of which 1,847,000 were permitted by the Government to enter the country during the year ended the 30th June, 1952. Import restrictions now apply, but the initial quantity of lighters admitted to Australia was so great that importers still have substantial numbers available. If the excise duty and the sales tax on safety matches were reduced to the prewar levels, they could be sold to the public at ls. 3_d. for a dozen boxes.
The Government, apparently, has singled out matches, for some reason that I am unable to ascertain, for the imposition of an excise duty. Excise is not levied, for instance, on boot polish, soap, and other ordinary household requirements. Surely matches cannot be regarded as a luxury, even if tobacco cigarettes, or beer, are deemed to be luxuries. The excise duty on matches is 6s. 6d. for 144 boxes, and sales tax is levied at the rate of 12½ per cent. The total impost, therefore, is 8s.11d. on 144 boxes, which represents 9d. for a dozen boxes and¾d. for one box. Whatever views one may hold in relation to protection and on the necessity for Australian industries to be compelled to withstand competition and, if necessary, to improve their efficiency in order to meet competition, the fact is that, in this instance, the Government is destroying an Australian industry by taxing it out of existence although the industry has proved its efficiency. The imposition of a discriminatory duty makes the product of the industry so dear that an alternative imported article is driving it out of business. Nobody is entitled to suggest that the match manufacturing industry is inefficient because, when the 40-hour week was introduced, the employers and the workers in the Bryant and May factory in my electorate maintained production at the level that prevailed under the 44-hour week, and later even increased it. Bryant and May’s factory produces matches as cheaply as they can be produced anywhere in Australia.
The workers employed in the industry are entitled to say that the Government is destroying their employment, and the employers are entitled to say that the Government is destroying the industry and the capital investments in it. There is no reason why this severe discrimination against the match manufacturing industry should continue any longer. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is in charge of the House, to bring the facts to the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and of Cabinet as a whole. It cannot be any consolation to the Government to know that the industry is going under and that some employees are working only half time while others are entirely unemployed. The Government can save the industry by abolishing the discriminatory impost that I have mentioned. There is no justification for the singling out of safety matches from other household articles for the levying of an excise duty. The manufacturers are entitled to ask that their product be treated in the same way as other ordinary household items. They must put up with the sales tax, of course, but the imposition of 6s. 6d. excise duty on every gross of boxes of safety matches is entirely unjust. Matches are an essential household item, as distinct from tobacco, cigarettes and beer.
– This is the only article that bears an excise duty as well as sales tax.
– That is true. There is an anomaly here that needs correction. I urge the Government to take action before the industry goes completely out of operation.
– The observations of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), and the letter from which he quoted on the subject of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has referred to employment at the match factory of Bryant and May Proprietary Limited in Victoria and has made urgent representations for the abolition of the excise duty on matches. Substantial representations have already been made to the Government on behalf of the industry, and the matter is now under consideration. However, I shall refer the honorable member’s remarks to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes -
Biala, New South Wales.
Lacmalac, New South Wales.
Mannus, New South Wales.
Wantagong, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - K. W. Roberts, J. G. Solomon.
Supply- K. T.Hall, G. V. Hart.
Trade and Customs - R. Rotenburg.
House adjourned at11.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Snowy Mountains Scheme.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
on. - On the 10th September, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following question: -
I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Governmenthas secured the advice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization as to the practicability of determining in textiles, by weight or in any other way, the proportion of re-used and re-processed wool and artificial fibres to pure virgin wool? If he has not, will he obtain such advice and communicate its nature to the House?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now supplied the following information : -
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been consulted concerning the question of determining the content of re-used, re-processed and virgin wool in a given textile. The organization is of the opinion that any specific recognition, either qualitatively or quantitatively of the various types of wool in a textile product is virtually impracticable.
d asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Army and Navy. They are not directable labour, (i) Subject to (a) immigrants “ have been interpreted as migrants under twoyear contract to the Commonwealth. (c) A Administrative “ includes both male and female stall.
y. - On the 12th September the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) asked the Minister for Supply the following question : -
Although there is now a surplus of certain kinds of steel in this country, fencing materials urgently required by primary producers are still scarce. Will the Minister for Supply investigate this matter with a view to ensuring that the production of fencing materials shall be increased?
The Minister for National Development has now supplied the following information : -
While a shortage of fencing materials will exists the supply position is improving. This particularly applies to plain and barbed wire and wire netting. For some time past the production of bright wire has been more than sufficient to meet all Australian requirements. Until recently, however, it has not been possible, because of shortage of zinc, to galvanize sufficient of this wire to meet requirements for fencing wire. However, in July of this year arrangements were made for the basic allocation of zinc to Lysaghts Brothers, the major producers of fencing materials, to be increased by 80 tons ‘ a month. This increased allocation has enabled Lysaghts Brothers to increase production of fencing wire, including barbed wire, from 200 tons a week to 400 tons a week and to increase production of wire netting from 75 tons a week to 140 tons a week. It is expected that supplies of zinc for essential purposes will soon be adequate for Australian requirement. As a result production of wire should fairly rapidly overtake the local demand. The production of fencing posts has increased in recent months by 20 per cent, to a rate of approximately 6,000,000 posts per annum.
d asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Migrants introduced under the displaced persons’ re-settlement scheme, the Commonwealth nomination scheme and the Netherlands and Italian agreements initially reside at immigration reception and training centres. These centres were, during the periods concerned, at Bathurst and Greta, in New South Wales, Bonegilla, in Victoria, and at Northam, in Western Australia. This, therefore, accounts for the greater intakes being shown in the above figures in respect of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Of the migrants who passed through the reception centres in these three States, a number were subsequently placed in employment in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
The greater proportion of these migrants were workers selected under the displaced persons’ re-settlement scheme. The balance of arrivals under assisted schemes during this period comprised mainly British free and assisted passage migrants (who are not subject to employment direction ) , other assisted migrants who were likewise free to choose their own employment and non-working dependants of migrant workers under employment obligation.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What are the names of the companies assessed for income and/or company tax under the provisions of the taxation acts that any business carried on in Australia and controlled principally by persons resident outside Australia which appears to the Commissioner to produce less than the ordinary taxable income which might be expected from that business may be assessed by the Commissioner on the basis which he thinks proper?
– Under the provisions of the Income Tax and Social
Services Contribution Assessment Act, the Commissioner of Taxation is bound to observe secrecy respecting the affairs of any taxpayer. In these circumstances, I am unable to furnish the information requested by the honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521001_reps_20_219/>.