4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers!
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether, now that the bookkeeping system has been abolished, the Government intend to take action, and, if so, when, to see that uniform rates of postage on magazines and other postal matter are adopted ?
– Why not letters, also?
– I understand that it is proposed to adopt uniform rates of postage throughout the Commonwealth for letters.
– That is not being done.
– Then I shall include letters in my question, and ask whether the Government intend to establish a truly Federal system of postage now that the bookkeeping system between the Commonwealth and the States has been abolished.
– A Bill to provide for universal ‘penny postage will be introduced by the Government at a very early date. In the preparation of the measure the Government has had under consideration the advisability of establishing uniform rates of postage throughout Australia, . not only on magazines, but upon all mail ‘ matter.
– I should like to ask the Minister, representing the PostmasterGeneral, whether it is possible, under existing regulations to defray the cost of a telegram sent in one State by the stamps of another State?
– Will the honorable senator please give notice of the question.
– Is it the intention of the Government to introduce the Bill to which the Minister has referred this session?
– Yes. .
– I desire to ask the Minister if we are right in assuming from statements that have appeared in the press that it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill during the present session’ dealing with postal rates which will cover the whole range of what, under the Post and Telegraph Act, are known as postal articles - not only letters, but newspapers, magazines, and all other mail matter. I wish to know if it is intended by that Bill to establish a uniform schedule of rates for the whole of the States, instead of the differentiating schedule at present in force?
– I thought I answered the honorable senator’s questionr in the reply I made to the question asked by Senator Givens. I said that it is intended that there shall be uniform rates of [postage, not only upon magazines, but upon all mail matter. There will not be a uniform rate of postage, but uniformity of rates on all mail matter. The Bill to be introduced at a later date will, I think, be comprehensive enough to satisfy every member of the Senate.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence a question, without notice. I should like to know whether it is true, as stated in the press, and as mentioned in another place, that the markers, who are said to have struck at Williamstown, were replaced by some members of the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth, and whether the Minister can generally give the Senate a statement on the matter, and say who is responsible for what is said to have occurred?
– The markers are employed by the Victorian Rifle Association. During yesterday they made a demand for an increase in their pay from 8s. to 10s. per day. That is a matter entirely for the Victorian Rifle Association to deal with. There were some thirty odd members of the Royal Australian Artillery in the permanent employ of the Commonwealth detailed to assist generally at the rifle ranges. These men are employed as register-keepers, and in such positions. None of them were sent to the Williamstown ranges to be employed in the trenches as markers. They are paid 10s. a day by the Commonwealth. The Victorian Rifle Association refused to pay the wages demanded by the markers. The markers then refused to take up their work, and the Executive of the Rifle Association appealed to Colonel Selheim, who, in the absence of the State Commandant, represents that officer. He ordered the officer in charge of the Royal Australian Artillerymen to detail them to act as markers. I have this morning called upon the InspectorGeneral who investigates and reports on the action of Colonel Selheim. The investigation is now proceeding.
Case of Warder J. Wise.
– I have to an nounce that I have received the following communication -
The Senate, 19th October, 1910.
I intend to move the adjournment of the Senate to-day, under standing order 63, to dis cuss an urgent matter of public importance, namely, the dismissal of a State employe1 owing to his refusal to resign from the Commonwealth Military Forces.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 2 o’clock to-morrow.
I recognise the seriousness of intervening with a motion of this kind which temporarily delays the discussion of important business on the notice-paper, but I think the facts I have to bring forward will justify my action. The case I have to submit is that of Mr. J. Wise, who was a warder in the Fremantle prison.- He was engaged there for three and ahalf years, and during the last two years he has been a member of the Garrison Artillery.
– That is the Militia garrison ?
– Yes. It appears that the present State . authorities have taken exception to this man carrying out his duties as an Australian citizen.During the two years he has been a member of the Garrison Artillery, he has attended necessary parades and drills without asking for a moment’s leave from his employers, the State Government of Western Australia.
– Is not that the point in dispute?
– I dare say it is, but I think that when the honorable senator hears the facts of the case, he will agree that some remedy should be found for this man’s grievance. As a prison warder he was sometimes engaged at night, and sometimes during the day. When he was on night duty he attended parades and drill on the Saturday afternoon, and when on day duty he attended his drills and parades one night in each week. About five months ago it was suggested to him by the prison authorities that his attendance at drills and parades interfered with his duties as a warder, and also inflicted hardship on other officers of the prison. That is one side of the case presented by the prison authorities, but, in view of the fact that during the whole of the two years this man did not occupy a moment of the Government’s time in the performance of his duties as a member of the Garrison Artillery, it’ is difficult to understand how it can be contended that the time be put in as a member of the Commonwealth Military Forces inflicted any hardship upon other officers of the Fremantle prison. I could understand the contention if, because Wise wished to attend a parade or drill, some other warder had been called upon to take his place, and thereby compelled to work longer hours. But that is not the case. He has never asked for leave, and has done all his military work in his spare time. He was then asked to resign from his position as a warder of the prison or from the Commonwealth Military Forces. His interest in military matters might _be considered a hobby, but, seeing that he devoted only his moments of leisure to it, he felt that in being called upon to resign from the prison staff, in the circumstances, his rights as a citizen were invaded.
– Can the honorable senator tell me his age? Would he be over twenty-six years of age?
– I do not know, but he may be over twenty-six years of age. He is the father of two children. In last September he was called before the Comptroller of Prisons, and was given his choice to resign from the Military Forces or from his position as a warder. He refused to do either, and. was then dismissed from the prison service. It has to be borne in mind that, as a warder in the Fremantle prison, so far as I am aware, this man received no privileges or concession* as a State civil servant.
– Assuming that to be true, has he no remedy under the State law regulating the Public Service?
– That is a point with which I shall deal later. Wise is not considered to be a State civil servant, but merely a daily-paid man, and, from my recollection of the Public Service Act of Western Australia, prison warders are not included in its provisions. He very properly, I think, considers that he is entitled to equal rights with every other citizen of the Commonwealth, and may spend his leisure time as he deems fit. That is a right which honorable senators will not deny to any citizen of the Commonwealth. It should also be remembered that in performing his duties as a member of the Garrison Artillery this man was doing something for the benefit of Australia. I remind honorable senators that we have already this session passed a Bill for the compulsory training of the citizens of Aus tralia. If we permit this sort of treatment to be meted out to an employe’ of a State before compulsory service has actually been instituted, what sort of treatment may we expect the private employer to mete out to his employes? I have already said, in reply to an interjection by Senator Millen, that Mr. Wise is a married man with a family of two children. When he was. asked to resign either his position in the Fremantle prison or his position in the De1 fence Forces, he considered that a big principle was at stake. Of course, it may be urged that he should have resigned his position in the Military Forces and have contested the matter afterwards. But there are times when men conscientiously believe that they are called upon to fight for a big principle. In the action which he took, Mr. Wise not only sacrificed his own employment, but jeopardized the future of his wife and family. Senator St. Ledger has asked whether a citizen placed in that position has no “protection under the State law. It is very difficult to answer a question of that sort. The Commonwealth Parliament cannot dictate to an employer as to whom he shall employ. But in the case which I am discussing, one of the States of the Commonwealth was the employer. Because Mr. Wise spent his leisure in taking part in the Military Forces, he has lost his employment.
– The honorable senator says that he has spent his “ leisure in taking part in the Military Forces “ ; but I understand that the contention of the authorities is that he was trenching upon their time. That is the whole point.
– Mr. Wise has never been absent from his duties for a single moment during a period of two years.
– The honorable senator will admit that he is making an ex parte statement.
– I will not. The reason assigned for Mr. Wise’s dismissal is that the Commandant of Western Aus.tralia supported the view of the Colonial Secretary that members of the police force and persons engaged in prison service are exempt from compulsory military training. So they are; but only in time of war. Clause 7 of that measure reads -
Section sixty-one of the principal Act is repealed, and the following sections are substituted in its stead : - “61. The following shall be exempt from service in time of war, so long as the employment, condition, or status on which the exemption is based continues : -
Persons employed in the police or prison service of the Commonwealth or of a State.”
But the present is not a time of war ; and, consequently, that provision cannot apply. Another reason which has been advanced for Mr. Wise’s dismissal is that a prison warder must always be within call of the superintendent. I admit that that may be highly desirable, because, at any moment, a revolt may occur amongst the prisoners. But surely it will not be urged that when a warder is off duty, he should not- be at liberty to attend a theatre, to indulgein a row upon the river, or to play a game of cricket or football, without first securing permission to do so. If such a course of action be necessary, the warder, in my judgment, will occupy a very much worse position than will the prisoner.
– Probably the prisoner will not think so.
– Either prison warders must be freed from any penalty for becoming members of the Military Forces, or our Defence Act must be amended so as to exempt them from military training. Last Friday, I received a telegram from Fremantle in reference to this matter, and, in conjunction with my colleagues, I submitted it to the Minister of Defence. 1 understand that he has since been in communication with the authorities in Western Australia ; but I am not aware of the nature of any reply which he may have received. I have no desire to labour the matter. I merely say that an Australian citizen who has dared to spend his leisure in a legitimate way - and in a way of which this Parliament approves - has been penalized for so doing by the Government of Western Australia. Whether we can offer him redress, I do not know; but if we cannot, the sooner we are in a position to do so, the better. Otherwise, our legislation in regard to defence will be a mere farce. I think it is wise that a matter of this sort should be brought under the notice of honorable senators and of the country.
– I think that Senator Needham is to be commended for having called the attention of Parliament to what must impress everybody as being a very serious position. We are endeavouring to establish an efficient Military Force in Australia in order that we may be able to protect ourselves.
– Discipline is a very necessary adjunct of that.
– Discipline is the very thing for which we desire to provide. If we permit a State Parliament to interfere with the discipline which we are attempting to exercise over our citizens, we shall simply destroy all discipline. If a State authority can exercise control over a man so as to prevent him from using his leisure as he pleases, it is obvious that every private employer can do the same thing. If I employ a man in a boot factory, and I dismiss him because he dares to attend military drills, what right has anybody to question my action, so long as the law permits a State authority to exercise similar control over one of its employes ? Because a man may happen to be employed for 8, 10, or 12 hours per day as a warder in a prison, we do not admit that the authorities have a lien upon his services to the extent of twenty- four hours per day. I do hope that the Minister of Defence will look into this matter very closely, with a view to preventing a repetition of such conduct.
– The honorable senator has argued on the basis that the facts, as they have been outlined on behalf of the warder, are unchallengeable.
– Undoubtedly. Mr. Wise has never been absent from his duties for a single moment. I am satisfied that the facts are as they have been represented to be. It is because of my feeling of certainty that an attempt has been made to prevent this man from devoting his spare hours to military duty that I have spoken so vehemently. I sincerely trust that the Commonwealth . authorities will make an investigation, and clear up the points in dispute. I also think that our duty as a Commonwealth Parliament - notwithstanding that this man is an em-‘ ploye of a State - is to protect the rights of our citizens. In my opinion, this man has undoubtedly been wronged by an authority that ought to have known better.
– There can be no doubt as to the seriousness of the case that has been brought forward by Senator Needham, nor as to its urgency. The question that we now have to ask ourselves is - has the Commonwealth the right to protect citizens against the despotism of State officials ? Aft honorable member opposite has asked whether the statements that have been put forward on behalf of Mr. Wise have been challenged. They have not been challenged so far. The facts were published by the Perth Daily News on 3rd October. Several weeks have since elapsed. The newspaper report distinctly states that Mr. Wise did not lose any time in attending to his military duties, and that no other warder had to take his place at any time. It has been clearly proved that Mr. Wise has right and justice on his side, and the facts alleged on his behalf have not been ^disputed.
– When was the case first mentioned in public?
– It was first mentioned in the Western Australian Parliament six weeks ago. It is for the Minister of Defence to inform the Senate whether he has communicated with the State Government on the subject, and whether that Government has refused to take up the cudgels on behalf of Mr. Wise. If so, it is clear, in my opinion, that the State Ministers must be in league with some foreign Power. They are certainly not doing their best to assist us in training soldiers for the defence of Australia. In my opinion, Senator Needham was justified, not merely in laying the facts before the Senate, but in expressing himself strongly concerning them. A very important question has arisen, and my colleague is to be commended for laying it before this Parliament.
– - I heartily indorse the action of Senator Needham in bringing the case of Mr. Wise before the Senate in order to have it ventilated. There may be many similar cases in the future. The Commonwealth has adopted a principle affecting the defence of this country that may bring us into conflict with other State Governments; and the sooner we have a clear understanding regarding our powers the better it will be for all concerned. I do not think that any member of the Senate is anxious to see any friction created between a State and the Commonwealth, but, at the same time, we ought to take steps to prevent cases of this kind occurring again. The case will serve a good purpose by affording an opportunity of arriving at an understanding as to what the powers of the Commonwealth are. I have read the press reports, and, as far as I am able to make out, Warder Wise has not in any way come into collision with any regulation of the prison service. It seems, however, that there is an unwritten law that a warder must hold himself in readiness to render service at any time when the prison authorities may call upon him.
– That may be a very necessary regulation.
– It may be. But, at the same time, a regulation of that kind must be administered in a careful manner. It would not do, simply because a man was a warder in a prison, to lay it down that the whole of his spare time was to be at the disposal of the prison authorities. If so, such a regulation would break down very soon, and would cause a great deal of discontent.
– A similar regulation exists in connexion with our larger fire brigades.
– There is an absolute need for it in that case, and the regulation may, in a lesser degree, be necessary in connexion with a prison. But I am quite sure that the unreasonable application of it would bring it into contempt. As far as I have been able to look into this case, there has been an unreasonable stretching of the regulation in its application to Warder Wise. According to the press reports, it is not alleged by the prison authorities that he has been at any time called upon to render duty when he has not responded. So that, as far as we can see, there was no genuine reason whatever why he should sever his connexion with the Defence Forces. The Commonwealth has laid down the principle of compulsory training for all citizens. I dare say that we shall experience a great deal of trouble in reference to the application of the principle, because, undoubtedly, it will in some measure interfere with the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. It was because of the fear of that interference that some of us were not as enthusiastic in support of the principle of compulsory service as we otherwise should have been. But when a State Government goes out of its way to call upon a man to withdraw from’ the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, I think that we ought to take a stand, and insist upon a clear understanding of theposition. As far as I can make out, what has occurred is due to nothing more nor lessthan a party feeling that has been manifested in Western Australia in what may becalled anti- Federal quarters - a feeling that is represented by the Government in office at the present time.
– The honorable senator is now bringing in political bias, which weakens the case.
– It is for those who dispute what I am saying to disprove my statements if they can. I hold that no justification has been shown for the action that has been taken with regard to Warder Wise. He was giving satisfaction in every way. No fault was found with the manner in which he was discharging his duty. No charge was made against him. It has not been alleged that he was not on hand when his services were required. Nothing has occurred to justify the action taken by the prison authorities. Therefore, I am justified in putting the construction on the facts that I have done, and in alleging that there was very little reason for putting into force the regulation under which action has been taken.
– The action of “Lilliputian Australians.”
– In the past we have deplored the want of patriotism on the part of citizens in respect to offering their services to the Commonwealth. Here is a case where a State has taken action to prevent a nian who was anxious to give his services for the defence of the country from doing so. Unless it can be shown that some personal element has entered into the action of the prison authorities in discharging Warder Wise, I can but conclude that an utterly unjustifiable course has been taken by the Western Australian Government.
– Is there any evidence to show that the Western* Australian Government had anything to do with the matter ?
– At any rate, the Government has taken no action to see justice done to this man. An appeal was made to the Chief Secretary. The facts of the case were placed before him, and representations were made to the effect that the man was entitled to retain his office.
– Perhaps the Chief Secretary did not think he was.
– Then we want to know why. Unless better reasons can be given for the discharge of Warder Wise, and for the hardship inflicted upon his family, I maintain that it is the duty of this Parliament to see that a similar thing does not happen again.
– Was the case discussed in the Western Australian Parliament?
– I believe that a question was asked some weeks ago. Therefore, the case cannot be said to have been sprung upon the authorities.
– The Western Australian Parliament has an opportunity of doing justice.
– It is just as well that we should have an investigation made with the view to prevent the recurrence of such a case in the future.
– The case of Warder Wise opens up a few very interesting points. In the first place, if the action of the Western Australian authority is justified, it is quite clear that every other State Government would be equally free to follow its lead; and if that were done it is interesting to speculate where the authority of the Commonwealth Government would come in. In the second place, the facts go to show that the individual liberty of persons following the occupation of prison warder would be very severely encroached upon in the future if the action of the Western Australian, Government were allowed to go unchallenged.
– Where is this sort of thing going to stop? y
– Exactly ; where is it going to stop ? The action of the Western Australian Government is calculated to reduce the number of volunteers, and especially affects a body of men who are eminently fitted, owing to the nature of their calling, to take part in the defence of the country. As to the first possible objection - about a prison warder needing to be at call, so that his services may be utilized by the prison authorities during every hour of his leisure time - there is this to be said : That if that be so, private employes have just as strong a claim to resist the policy of the Federal Government in that regard, because it is very often a condition, or an implied condition, of private employment that a man must live in close proximity to the scene of his work, in order that he can be called upon in a case of emergency. If this case which is put forward, or guessed at, is solid or sound, namely, that a person ought to be exempt from military training on account of the liability to be called upon in his off-time, it applies equally to private employers who want their employes to be at their beck and call when off duty. That opens up a very interesting field of discussion. If it is necessary that the State
Government should, so to speak, own their employes, body and soul, there is equal authority for private employers to insist upon owning employes who they consider should be within easy call. I do not think that that view can be acquiesced in. To my mind, the question of the management and control of prisoners is only a bugbear. There have been fewer revolts in prisons, perhaps, than there have been amongst the populace of this country. Within my recollection, there have been a few revolts, and a necessity to call in special constables. It would be just as well for a State Government to refuse to allow its citizens to take up military training, lest they might be called upon to act as special constables, as to refuse to allow their prison warders to undergo similar training.
– Perhaps the gaols in Western Australia are weak.
– I can remember several occasions when special constables had to be called in;, but I have no clear recollection of revolts occurring amongst prisoners on such a scale as could not be coped with by the warders. There is a further objection to this claim that prison warders should always be at hand. The prisons are generally situated in the neighbourhood of the police barracks, and the Police Force are always available to quell a disturbance when it arises. The case which has been put forward by the prison authorities is not sound, because, as a rule, the prisons are situated in centres of population; and where they are not so situated there is always a reserve of warders to see that prisoners do not take charge. There are other reasons for holding a very searching inquiry, and asserting the sovereignty of this Parliament as regards any attempt by State Governments to interpose obstacles to the training of warders for the defence of the country. It is a far more vital matter to train warders in defence than to keep them on hand to quell imaginary riots.
– Some days ago, this question was brought before me by Senator Needham on behalf o? himself and other representatives of Western Australia, on a telegram which had been sent to him by Mr. Cameron, of Fremantle, and which reads as follows -
Much indignation here State Government’s action dismissing Warder Wise because declined resign Commonwealth Military Forces. See press reports. Can any step be taken by Federal Government to protect Wise’s right Common wealth citizen? Consult Western Australian members. Reply.
I despatched the following telegram to the Premier of Western Australia -
Representations made to me re action State Government dismissing Warder Wise owing to his refusal to resign from Commonwealth Military Forces. Respectfully urge reconsideration, of decision in interests of Commonwealth Defence.
That message was sent on the 13th inst, but, so far, we have not received a reply. I have since taken the trouble to ascertain the practice in the States. To the Military Commandants I sent the following wires : -
Has State Government at any time placed any embargo prison warders joining or belonging to Citizen Forces? Reply at once.
I am now able to inform the Senate that in Victoria the Government does not place any obstacle in the way of warders joining the Military Forces. “The Military Commandant in New South Wales sent this reply -
Your telephone message this morning; ComptrollerGeneral Prisons states no general embargo; each case dealt with on its merits.
The Military Commandant in Tasmania replied, “No; State Government rather encouraged it.” The Military Commandant in Queensland wired in these terms -
The occupation of warders owing to hours of duty prevents men enrolling Citizen Forces other than Rifle Clubs. State Government have never issued any special instructions on matter.
The Military Commandant in South Australia informs me that the question has never been raised in that State. On the- 13th September, this case was raised in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. On page 695 of the State Hansard, I find this* report -
Mr. Troy asked the Premier : 1. Is the Premier aware that efforts have been made by certain officials in the Prisons Department to compel men under their control to leave the Federal Defence Forces? 2. What reasons, if any, are given by such officers for their attempt to interfere with State employes serving the Defence Department during their own time? 3. Has any appeal been made to the Government, against this official attempt to deprive men of their rights as citizens, and, if so, what reply has been made to such appeal? 4. Are the Government in favour of allowing all State employes, in common wilh other citizens, facilities for serving in the Defence Forces, provided such service does not interfere with their duty to the Department in which they are employed?
The Premier replied : - 1 and 2. The exigencies of the prison service necessitated the ComptrollerGeneral of Prisons requesting the resignation from the Defence Force of two wardersemployed in Fremantle prison, as it interferedwith their duties as warders. 3. One of the two warders affected by the instructions did make a request for reconsideration of the matter. His request was refused by the Colonial Secretary, after conferring with the State Commandant, who reported that he had no hesitation in granting this, or any other warder, a free discharge, as he could readily see that the nature of the duties must clash. 4. Yes. The Commonwealth Government, however, have recognised the difficulties attending the disciplinary staff of prisons, and the amending Defence Bill provides, inter alia, for the exemption from service of persons employed in the police or prison service, &c.
I am assured that the last statement is hardly accurate.
– It is only in time of war they are exempt.
– I do not know whether the statement in regard to the expression of opinion by the Military Commandant is correct, as we have no record of it. But, as regards the statement that the amending Defence Bill provides, inter alia, for the exemption from service of persons employed in the police and in prisons, I have here the principal Act, which contains the exemptions in time of war, but does not give any exemption to prison warders, either for training or in time of war. Referring to the section which gives the exemptions from service in time of war, clause 7 of the Defence Bill reads-
Section sixty-one of the principal Act is repealed, and the following sections are substituted in its stead : - “61. The following shall be exempt from service in time of war, so long as the employment, condition, or status on which the exemption is based continues : -
Persons employed in the police or prison services of the Commonwealth or of a State.
Clause 18, which contains the exemptions from training, does not exempt prison warders. The latter are not exempt from training, nor are a large number of persons who are exempt from service in time of war, for the simple reason that a person needs to be trained because, on the outbreak of war, he might not happen to be in that particular service. Take, for instance, persons employed on railways. In time of war, probably we should not take them from the railways, but we need to train them because, when war breaks out, they might not be employed in that service.
– If a man is over twenty-six years of age, will he still be bound to go up for training?
– Not after he is twenty-six years of age; but, in time of war, he may be called upon to serve. If the Premier of Western Australia meant his statement to apply to training, he was not correct.
– It seems to me that he used the word “ service “ in contradistinction to the word “training.”
– I do not think SO but, whatever he meant, warders in prisons are not exempt from training. If a man were under twenty-six years of age, we should require him to. train, and, under the Constitution, our law would override any State law or regulation. If a State Government were to penalize an employe* who was compelled to train, the serious question would arise of what action we could take. We have a provision under which a private employer can be fined and subjected to serious disabilities for preventing an employe from undergoing training.
– I suppose that unification is the way out of the difficulty.
– I do not propose to say any more at present, because, until 1 receive a reply to my telegram, I regard the matter as sub judice, from the departmental point of view. 1 hope that the Premier of Western Australia will be willing to reconsider his decision, especially as we shall now be able to bring under his notice the fact that, under no other State Government is it found necessary to prevent warders from joining the Military Forces. I shall make further representations to the State Premier, and probably call for a report from the State Commandant, seeing that his name is mentioned in the reply to Mr. Troy’s questions as to the actual position in regard to this warder. On the receipt of the replies, we shall decide what further action can be taken.
– The principle involved in this matter, and there is a principle involved in it, is an extremely serious one. If necessary we could cite public departments of the Commonwealth to find at work exactly the same thing that is illustrated by this Western Australian incident. Whatever may be the case to-day, I know that, not many months ago, so far as we could judge, the officials of a Federal Department were active agents in throwing obstacles in the way of our own public servants putting in time in the military service of the Commonwealth. The Minister of Defence is no doubt aware of the existence in his Department of correspondence which passed between the Defence Department and the Department of the Postmaster-General, in which serious complaints were made of the action of the Postal Department in putting difficulties in the way of postal employes attending military camps.
– I must say that I have found no difficulty.
– The papers to which I refer must be in the Department of Defence. I am speaking of a time when the last Government were in office.
– All sorts of things happened when that Government were in office.
– Did any one lose his employment?
– No; because officers of the Postal Department were not allowed off to attend the camps. The previous Government cannot be charged with any wrongful act because of the action of the officers of the Postal Department to which I refer, since it was the same Government that, through the Defence Department, rebuked the Postal Department for their action.
– Did the Postal’ Department officials interfere with action taken by employes of the Department in their own time?
– No. What they did was this : They afforded facilities for officers to attend public” sports and demonstrations, but claimed that it would interfere with public convenience if they were allowed similar time off to attend drill. That is the whole thing in a nutshell. I am sure it is the desire of every member of the Senate to get the facts in this case. It is a little unfortunate that we have today presented to us only an ex -parte statement. I am not impugning the accuracy of the statement as submitted, but on the face of it it is an ex parte statement.
– There is complete unanimity.
– Amongst whom? There is unanimity amongst the gentlemen who have appeared here as advocates of the warder and who are relying upon the same sources of information for the opinions they have expressed.
– We spoke as much in the interests of warders in New South Wales as in Western Australia.
– I do not question that.
– Would the honorable senator put an advertisement in the newspapers after what he has learned today to the effect, “ Lost, stolen, or strayed - the Premier of Western Australia “?
– I should rather be inclined to offer a reward to the Vice-
President of the Executive Council to be serious for five minutes at a time if he can. Before the Senate, or any other deliberative body, is asked to pass judgment upon a matter of this kind, both sides of the case should be presented. Owing to the failure of die Government of Western Australia to reply to the communication from the Minister of Defence we are not in a position to say what answer is to be made to the statement of the case as presented to the Senate. We have the authority of the Western Australian Hansard, for stating that the Western Australian Government has affirmed, in the answers given by a Minister to certain questions put to him, that his attendance at military drill did interfere with the duties which this warder had to discharge. If that be so, the Federal authorities should be very slow to interfere with the action of the State Government. We have to remember, when we speak of the authority of the Federal Government, that it is, or will be, limited to men under twenty-six years of age. It would be rather curious if, in addition to that provision, we were to claim to exercise power over State Governments or private employers ‘in their dealings with men over twenty-six years of age.
– The provision to which the honorable senator refers is not to come into force until ist January.
– That is so.
– It makes this crime all the worse.
– The honorable senator calls it a crime, but we have heard the allegation of one side only, and from the other side an answer to questions stating that the attendance of this warder at military drill did interfere with his duties as a warder. I am unable to determine whether that statement is true or not on the information before us. It is rather regrettable that honorable senators who come here seeking justice should refuse to look at both sides of the shield, and should appear as open and avowed partisans.- That is hardly the way in which to solicit a sympathetic hearing for a matter like this. Senator Needham speaks of the dismissal of this man as a crime, and in so doing charges the Western Australian authorities with committing a crime.
– They have not denied the charge.
– The charge is denied or answered by the statement that the attendance of this warder at military drill interfered with his duties as a warder.
– There has been no reply to the wire sent by the Minister of Defence.
– I am unable to say whether this man’s attendance at military drills interfered with his duties as a warder. All I know at the present moment is that the State authorities affirm that it did. If that statement be correct, I say that the Federal authorities should be slow to move.
– I do not think that “ Kaiser Bill “ would be very slow to move in a case of this kind. He would shake things up.
– I have noted the fact that the opinion was expressed in the Vanguard recently that it would be better for the workers of Australia to be under Kaiser William than under the present political system of this country. I should like to point out that Senator Rae would not be allowed to speak in that disrespectful and flippant tone of Kaiser William if we were under him. I say that we have no evidence here to enable us to decide whether a wrong has been done or not. No impartial member of the Senate would take the . responsibility, on the scanty evidence before it, of deciding that a wrong has been done. We must do as the Minister of Defence proposes to do - await a further reply from the Western Australian authorities on the case. That, no doubt, will be received in due course. Perhaps it is to be regretted that it was not sent by wire, but, as that may not have been regarded as a satisfactory way of dealing with the matter, it is quite possible that a more lengthy communication than we should have been likely to receive by wire is now on the way by post. I do think it is extremely regrettable that honorable senators bringing forward a matter of this kind should make a motion, professedly seeking to do justice, a peg on which to hang a party accusation against a State Government they do not like.
-391- - I j°m i-n the regret expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that some statements should have been made in the presentation of this case to which the attention of the Minister might be drawn. Senator Buzacott concluded his speech, after reviewing circumstances which he presumes to be quite correct, by stating that it would appear that the present Premier or Government of Western Australia must be in secret alliance with a foreign Power.
– With good reason, too.
– If .the honorable senator will pardon me, I should like to say that it is impossible for a man to conceive a more ridiculous reductio ad absurdum. Another advocate of this warder has come to the startling conclusion that the facts in this case show that there is an anti-Federal Government in power at present in Western Australia, though what relation the facts in this case have to federalism no one else can possibly imagine. The honorable senator assumes, because of its anti-federalism, the Western Australian Government has done art unjust thing to one of its own servants. We have listened to the explanation of the Minister of Defence. We know” that when four or five questions are asked’ from this side upon a matter there is often a concealed or an open trap in some of them, and. I hope I shall not be considered as disparaging the member of the Western Australian Parliament who put the questions to which reference has been made in reference to this case, when I say that I think I can see some of that guile in thos? questions. The answer given to one of the questions is strong evidence that there was a case for the action of the Colonial Secretary or Comptroller of Prisons in Western Australia. There is further evidence of this in the official communication between the head of the Prisons Department and the State Commandant. The latter is a Commonwealth officer, responsible to us for seeing that the obligations which our Acts impose on the citizens and Government of Western Australia are carried out. He has, apparently, informed the Colonial Secretary of Western Australia that, in the circumstances of this particular case, the attendance of this man to his duties as a member of the Defence Forces was not consistent with a proper discharge of his duties as a warder.
– He may have been guilty of an error of judgment.
– That may be said of honorable senators who have submitted this case. We require more information in dealing with a matter of this kind, which is rather a delicate one, inasmuch as its discussion involves comments by the members of one Parliament on the action of the members of another. In such a matter we should do well to walk warily.
There is another remarkable feature of the case which should not be overlooked. The party represented by honorable friends opposite are particularly quick to raise what, in the language of the boulevards, is called “ a dust,” if a matter of this kind is not properly attended to by their parliamentary representatives. I do not mean to assert that they are the only persons who do that kind of thing, but it is somewhat remarkable, in the face of the questions and answers which have been referred to, and in view of the time that has elapsed to enable the matter to be looked into, that Labour representatives in the Western Australian Parliament did not make things pretty warm for the State Minister who, according to the view presented to the Senate by Labour representatives of Western Australia, has inflicted a gross injustice upon this warder. When we are asked how it is that the Colonial Secretary did not reply to communications in connexion with this matter, we may ask how it is that nothing so far has been heard of an agitation concerning the inaction of Labour representatives in the Western Australian Parliament. The very fact that no reply has been received from the Premier of Western Australia in regard to this matter is a good reason why we should follow the advice of the Minister of Defence by withholding judgment until we are in receipt of full information.
– In having ventilated this matter I have achieved the object which I had in view, which was to call attention to the fact, that an Australian citizen was being victimized. The Minister of Defence has replied to the statements which I made in the only way that he could reply. The Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to make it appear that I have made only an ex parte statement. But I would ask him whether a sufficient interval has not elapsed between the 13th October and the 19th October to enable the Premier of Western Australia to reply to the communication of the Minister of Defence.
– Not necessarily.
– Then I differ from the honorable senator. I do hope that as the result of this debate some machinery will be set in motion which will prevent a man from being penalized for discharging his duties as a citizen. Counsel for the defence, the alleged lawyer who has just resumed his seat, attempted to make it appear that this is merely a
Western Australian case. It is true that I am a Western Australian senator, but I am also a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, and my advocacy of the rights of any citizen will never be limited to my own State boundaries. It is true that Mr. Wise’s case was raised in the Western Australian Parliament. But he secured no redress there.
– Apparently nobody in that Parliament troubled about him.
– That is no reason why we should not trouble. My chief object in bringing this matter forward was to ascertain whether there was any means of securing protection for this man. In the circumstances, I am prepared to wait till the Premier of Western Australia condescends to reply to the urgent wire which has been despatched to him by the Minister of Defence. I recognise the courtesy which has been extended to me by the Government, and I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
When the annual report of the Papuan Government will be tabled?
– The report has not yet been received. As soon as possible after it comes to hand it will be tabled.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
The contract provides for the establishment of the stations, for which a tender has been accepted, in April, 1911.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask whether the Minister can supply the Senate with any data in reference to the establishment of the proposed wireless telegraphy station at
Thursday Island? When is it likely that tenders for the work will be called ?
– I understand that a site has been selected at Thursday Island, and that arrangements have been made to proceed with the erection of the station. I cannot specify the date on which work will commence, or the period over which it will extend, but I can assure the honorable senator that no time will be lost.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14th October (vide page 4601), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have to admit that I approach the consideration of this measure with a feeling of depression, and that feeling is intensified by the levity with which the Honorary Minister receives my declaration. The depression which I experience arises from the fact that upon matters of major importance this Senate is rapidly losing all claim to be regarded as a deliberative body. I say that without any desire to challenge the methods by which the members of the Government seek to give effect to the collective decisions of the Labour party. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in moving the second reading of the Bill, intimated very plainly that it was idle to deliberate upon it. He said that he was so satisfied that it was a perfect measure - an opinion which he doubtless entertained when it left the Cabinet, as well as while it was being remodelled in the other Chamber - that he intended to resist all amendments. That was a plain statement to the effect that the Senate might save itself the trouble of discussing the Bill, because he and his party intended to sit tight and to resist all amendments of it, no matter what might be their effect. Hitherto it has been the practice, upon matters of big State import, for Ministers to declare that, whilst they intended to adhere tenaciously to the principles of a Bill, they were prepared to give consideration to any amendment which was designed to make it more workable. But the Vice-President of the Executive Council has practically put a pistol at the head of the Senate by affirming that the Government will resist all amendments to this measure. Such a declaration can proceed from only one of two causes. It arises either from a desire to give effect to the behests of the party with which he is associated or from overwhelming egotism.
– Put it down to that. Let him beat the blame.
– I am merely offering these remarks to explain the feeling of depression which I experience in approaching the consideration of this measure, lt has been said that it is put forward for the purpose of fulfilling the mandate which was received from the people at the last elections. That being so, it is necessary for us to learn what was that mandate. Obviously the country cannot approve or disapprove of anything that was not submitted to it. What was referred to the electors of Australia for their decision on the 13th April last? In this connexion I intend to quote from the manifesto issued by Mr. Fisher.
– Why not quote from the Labour platform? A statement made by a Minister must not be regarded as outlining the policy of the party.
– Here is the means which the Prime Minister adopted of acquainting the electors of Australia with the intentions of the Labour party if they were returned to power. It was not the Labour Conference which appealed to the electors, but the party which is under Mr. Fisher’s leadership. It propounded its programme and received the verdict of the constituencies. Here is what that party published on the occasion in question -
Land monopoly is the curse of Australia. With immense areas of fertile land within reasonable distance of great centres of population, blessed with a regular rainfall sufficient to support 50,000,000 people in comfort, a population of less than 5,000,000 cannot obtain land for its own limited requirements.
That was the text from which Mr. Fisher and his friends preached to the electors, as justification for this land tax.
– The honorable senator admits the truthfulness of that.
– I am not questioning the truthfulness of the statement now ; nor am I prepared to admit it I neither admit nor condemn it. I am merely inquiring how far the appeal for votes, which was given on the 13th April- for I readily admit that the votes were given - has been justified. I am trying to show what it was that Mr. Fisher asked the people to approve. He first states that land monopoly exists. Following this, he goes on to say -
It is useless and even dangerous to invite people to a country unless we make preparations to receive them.
That followed naturally ; and then the Government were to apply, as a remedy, a land tax which was to start at id. and rise by such graduations as were necessary to make it effective. Of course, I have merely taken a few points out of Mr. Fisher’s statement.
– Does not the statement say anything about a tax of 6d. in the £i ?
– lt does not say a word about 6d., nor did any other member of the Federal Labour party say a word on that point before the electors.
– Yes; I said that I would go for a tax of half-a-crown, if necessary.
– I should have exempted Senator Rae, except that 1 thought it was unnecessary, as, like the heathen, he is known to be a law unto himself. If the rest of his party had declared for a tax of 4d., he would have declared for something else. My object now is to show what it was that the Labour party submitted to the electors, and what it was that the people believed in and approved of. Their contention was that, because there was land monopoly, it would be dangerous, first of all, to invite immigrants to Australia, and that it was essential to return to Parliament a Labour Government which would bring in a land tax to destroy land monopoly, and make land available; so making room for immigrants who should come to Australia.
– The tax should be high enough to be effective. I think the proposed tax does fall a bit short in that respect.
– I have shown what was the appeal made by the Labour party to the country. It is quite clear that the country accepted those statements and indorsed them. The electors gave a verdict for carrying out the necessary measures to cure the state of affairs which then existed. But, since then, a great change has happened. Much has occurred to break up land monopoly. The monopoly which existed then no longer exists. There may have been a scarcity then; but it is quite clear that no scarcity exists to-day. Land is now available in all the States upon easy and reasonable conditions. For my authority for that statement, I refer to that interesting pamphlet which has recently been published, and which is clearly not intended for circulation in Australia, but for consumption in Great Britain. It was issued for the benefit of the farmers and the labourers of the Mother Country. To show how fully that charming and interesting document comes into conflict with the official manifesto of the Labour party, I propose to read a few pertinent paragraphs from it. On the first page is a foreword by Mr. Batchelor, in which he talks about - extending to farmers an invitation to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for prosperous settlement in Australia.
Compare that statement with the appeal made to the electors, in which they were told that land monopoly was the curse of Australia. Now we have this Minister of External Affairs issuing a pamphlet with all the emphasis and assurance of a Labour Government’s indorsement, in which he appeals to English farmers to come here and take advantage of the opportunities that exist for prosperous settlement in Australia.
– That statement was made in anticipation of the land tax.
– My honorable friends may trifle with the question if they like. It is their peculiar way. They are face to face with a nasty fact, and it is plain that they are trying to laugh it out of court.
– Is it not a fact that two anti-Labour Governments have since gone out of office - in South Australia and in New South Wales?
– This pamphlet was published on the 15th August. That sort of argument might be all very well in a bush camp ; but it is ineffective here, where we are engaged in serious business. I know that my honorable friend does not for a moment think that this pamphlet was issued with the intention of informing people in Great Britain that an opportunity for settlement would be created in consequence of legislation to be passed. at some future time. We have heard much in New South Wales during the past few weeks about the awful plight into which the small settlers of that State have been plunged, owing to a non-sympathetic Government being in office; but the electors of that State were never told, on the authority of the Fisher Government, as the farmers of
Great Britain have been told in this pamphlet, about -
The prosperity of Australian farmers and their lavish outlay on up-to-date machinery and good live stock.
But if our farmers are so prosperous, and if their prosperity has been demonstrated by this lavish outlay on good live-stock and up-to-date machinery, the State authorities cannot have been so unsympathetic, or behaved in so harsh a manner as has been so freely represented during the last few weeks.
– - No one ever said it was so.
– Everywhere I went in New South Wales during the recent campaign I found that attacks were being made on an unsympathetic, apathetic Government headed by Mr. Wade, and ‘the electors were led to believe that not until they put in office a sympathetic Government, headed by Mr. McGowen, could any improvement be expected.
– Did not the honorable senator go round preaching black ruin to the farmers on account of the Federal land tax?
– I never preached black ruin, because I think that the farmers have too much common sense to allow my honorable friend’s party to ruin them. The pamphlet goes on -
An enormous area of wheat land has been made available to the selector by the construction of spur railways, and when those lines which it is intended to construct are completed a further large area will be opened.
If there are such enormous areas of land available, there cannot be such an amount of monopoly as has been represented. There can be no monopoly if there is any justification for statements of this sort. Appealing to another class of farmers, the pamphlet says -
Land for dairy farming in Australia is not -as cheap as wheat land, for instance, but there is no difficulty in the new-comer securing on easy terms excellent unimproved land in settled districts at prices ranging from as low as £2 per acre to £10 per acre.
There is certainly not much land monopoly when you can go straight into a dairying district and settle, with all the facilities for social intercourse and approach to the markets, on land obtainable at £2 per acre.
– Unimproved ; and it may cost from ^30 to £40 per acre to improve the land.
– But the British immigrant is told in this pamphlet that there is no difficulty in securing easy terms, and that excellent unimproved land can be obtained at £2 per acre.
– That is to say, easier terms than the settler could obtain in his own country.
– I can see now that the Fisher Government made a mistake in not calling in the aid of my honorable friends opposite, in order that the necessary qualifications might be inserted in this pamphlet before it was published ! The pamphlet goes on -
Important irrigation schemes have been undertaken in Australia. Extensive tracts of irrigated lands are now ready for occupation in areas ranging from 15 to 20 acres to 200 acres and over. On such lands dairy farming can be conducted under the most favorable conditions. . There are available for settlement in all States large tracts of partly cleared and improved land which can be prepared for cropping at trifling cost and without any delay for burning off.
Statements of that kind were never made during the appeal to the electors before the 13th April. Here is one of the choice plums in this very rich feast -
The market gardening industry is therefore one in which men from the Old Country and their families who have had experience in the work can find splendid openings. In the big cities and country towns the consumption ot vegetables all the year round is enormous, and the prices obtainable are remunerative.
Mark this description of a country where land monopoly is supposed to be rampant -
Everything can be grown in the open, and small allotments within easy reach of big markets and areas of marvellously rich alluvial soil on the banks of permanent water-courses can be procured without difficulty.
Would it be possible to obtain areas of rich alluvial soil on the banks of watercourses in a country where land monopoly exists ?
– It has never been seriously contended that the monopolists had grabbed all the good land. They have left skirts of it here and there.
– I do not see any passage which justifies that statement in the appeal made to the electors by Mr. Fisher. If the Labour party in their appeal to the electors on the 13th April made what they believed to be an honest statement, what justification is there for this pamphlet issued at the cost of the electors of the Commonwealth by the present Government? And, on the contrary, if the statements which have been sent Home under the authority of this Administration are accurate, then the appeal which they made to the electors is capable of being designated by only one very short Saxon word.
– An Australian word would be better.
– It is a word which has become Australian by easy adoption, though when it is used in this country an adjective is generally applied to it. The pamphlet goes on -
The land laws of New South Wales are very liberal….. Large areas of Crown lands are still available for selection in New South Wales, and 9,000,000 acres of unsettled land is to be found in the Central Division of that State.
That may be true.
– ‘With the Government that is now in office in New South Wales, that will be the case.
– But the statement here made is that the lands are now available for selection. There is no qualification such as the honorable senator suggests. Again -
A man with a little capital will experience no difficulty in getting a start in New South Wales. Speaking of Queensland, they say -
Large areas are available on easy terms. The area at present occupied represents only a small proportion of the lands fitted for highly profitable use.
With regard to South Australia, we read -
Large areas of land are about to be opened for settlement….. Lands comprising 360.000 acres are open to application in various localities.
See how the scribe can differentiate between the present and the future when he wants to do so.
– The Verran Government are now in power in South Australia.
– See how the scribe can draw a clear line between the lands which are open and those which are about to be opened. If he had not been depicting the condition of affairs which the Fisher Government held exists to-day he knew enough clearly to have shown, if he had wished to do so, that he was portraying a picture which would exist at some future time. As regards Western Australia, I shall dismiss that State with one quotation -
There are millions of acres of unalienated lands in the State available for settlement.
– The grass is still growing.
– My honorable friend is wrong. In New South Wales, unfortunately, there are a good many districts where grass is not growing, and the season has completely changed since the advent of a Labour Administration. As I happen to be interested in those districts, I might go further and say that I can clearly trace the hand of the Government in that affliction. As Senator Findley seems to be interested in these quotations, may I remind honorable senators of a little incident which occurred here one afternoon last session, when Senator Russell, of Victoria, raised this very question, and in intensely indignant tones denounced the State Governments for sending to the people of Great Britain an intimation that land was available here, and inviting them to come out? The honorable senator was indignant, but when Senator Findley by an interjection which almost scorched the chamber, so intensely warm was he on the subject, followed him up, I felt that there was no answer to be made on that occasion. But how does he stand, to-day?
– He is full of hope.
– He is now defending the very statement which he then denied. He said then that it was a cruel, shameless procedure for the State Government to tell English farmers that it had land available for them.
– When it had none.
– The honorable senator is now sending Home an intimation telling persons that land is available.
– So it is now that we have a Labour Government. There is plenty of land available in Victoria now that estates are being cut up.
– Since the honor able senator spoke there has been no change in that regard.
– A very great change.
– Has there been a change since the 13th April, which has made millions of acres of land available in Western Australia?
– The advertising columns of the press are full of auctioneers’ announcements of subdivisions.
– I am dealing with the 9,000,000 acres of land, which, according” to this Government, are available in the western district of New South Wales, and the millions of acres which are available in Western Australia.
– I was speaking about Victoria.
– No, Senator Russell spoke generally of Australia, denouncing the attempts of State Governments to proclaim abroad that there were openings here for farmers and labourers, and Senator Findley joined him on that occasion.
– In respect of Victoria.
– It was not a question of Victoria at all. My honorable friend has always professed to take a continental view of things. He had no regard then for the man whose vision was limited by the banks of the Yarra. He was very different on that occasion from the man who is listening to extracts from this book to-day. There was, and had been, for many years no form of settlement so bitterly denounced by the Labour party as share farming. In introducing this Bill, Senator McGregor referred to share farming as a means by which the landlord was able to extract the life blood of the man who worked the farm.
– That is very true in some cases.
– Yet, in this pamphlet we find an appeal to Englishmen to come out and take advantage of the opportunities which exist here for share farming. If it was fair and honest to tell the people of this country that share farming is a means by which a vampire landlord can extract the farmer’s life blood, it is monstrously cruel to invite persons in England to come here and subject themselves to such conditions. Yet we have this pamphlet setting out for the consideration of English farmers these attractions -
In several parts of the wheat belt there are many opportunities of farming on shares for the man who if accustomed to the cultivation of grain crops.
Then follows a setting out of the terms on which share farming is carried on. It goes on to say that the usual practice is for” the man to find the plant and the landlord to provide the land, but it adds that in cases he has been known to find the plant for picked men. Then it holds out this encouragement -
Thrifty labourers have succeeded in providing the necessary implements and stock out of a few years’ savings. For practical dairy men with children over 14 years of age -
Have honorable senators forgotten the indignation with which the question of employing child labour on dairy farms has been denounced from 100 Labour platforms? Whatever indignation was expressed towards the ordinary .method of share farming, it became as nothing to the white heat into which honorable senators worked themselves when they depicted children who ought to be at school or in bed, working to swell the pockets of avaricious parents.
– Very likely the parents might have been forced to do that by the exactions of the landlords.
– Exactly j but there is no reason why a Labour Government should ask other parents to bring children here to submit to the same conditions. This pamphlet tells practical dairymen that there are reasonable openings for dairy farming on shares. Here is what the Government say on the subject -
For practical dairymen with children over 14 years of age there are reasonable openings in dairy farming on shares …. the returns being divided on an equitable basis.
If this Labour Government were honest in telling the English dairy farmer that he could come here and find reasonable openings for dairy farming on the share system, and that the returns would be divided on an equitable basis, they had no justification for the words in which they denounced share farming in this country. The quotation continues -
In many cases, to take a farm on the shares for a year or two will prove the most profitable course for the labourer who has acquired Australian experience and has saved a little capital which he wishes to supplement with a view to purchasing a farm of his own.
There is the advice which Senators McGregor, Pearce, and Findley offer on behalf of a Labour Government behind which they must have the support and approval of those who sit on the Ministerial benches. The English farmer is being told on the authority of the great Labour party in Australia, and of a Labour Administration, that there are all these advantages here and he is advised to come and enjoy them. He is told that the best means he can adopt is to become a share farmer.
– I did not authorize or approve of that advice.
– My honorable friend cannot help it, and he certainly has my heartfelt sympathy in this connexion. I have already read from the Fisher appeal to the people the statement that it would be wrong and iniquitous to invite additional labour to Australia under existing conditions. But not content with inviting farmers to come here, with telling them that land can be obtained on easy terms, in this pamphlet we find a direct appeal to labourers to come and supply the demand which exists in Australia for labour. In order to show how gently my honorable friends approached the
English labourer, let me read a quotation. They were afraid that he might come out, thinking that he might have a few days’ idleness and not know what to do with himself, and so gave him an assurance that if he did not find a job immediately he need not be troubled. They said -
Men may camp in the open without a tent, and outdoor existence is by far the most pleasurable method of enjoying life.
If an Australian employer were to make a statement in those terms, what would be said? Yet we find Senators McGregor, Pearce, and Findley sending this appeal to the labourer of Great Britain to come out, and telling persons that if they did not get a job at once, if they could not find a roof to put over their head, outdoor existence was by far the most pleasurable way of enjoying life. There is not an honorable senator on the other side who is prepared to get up and say that the statements I am reading square with the appeals which they addressed to the electors.
– And they do not square with facts either.
– I am not now arguing that question, but pointing out the contrast between the appeal which was made to the electors when their votes were solicited, and the action which is now being taken by the Government when it is securely entrenched on the Treasury benches. One of their first actions has been to spend the money of the taxpayers in sending this appeal to the farmers and labourers of Great Britain.
– The unfortunate part of the business is that it is your appeal, and this Government has practically indorsed it.
– I never made this appeal.
– It was practically made by the previous Adminstration.
– No, it never drafted the document or approved of its issue.
– Did they not collect any portion of the information?
– I am not concerned with what they collected. I assert that the previous Administration never sent out this document or approved of it, and had it been prepared to do so there would have been a vacancy in the Cabinet. I know too much of this country to say that it is possible for men to get land which they can clear without delay. I have been too long associated with pastoral life to know that, whatever the conditions may be, that cannot be done without delay. Yet we find such silly statements appearing in this pamphlet. On pages 49, 57, and 64 the Government deplore the scarcity of labour in the dairying, fruit-growing, and tobacco industries, and state it is retarding the expansion of those industries. Honorable senators can see how far that squares with the statement that it would be criminally wrong to invite fresh English labour to come out until the land monopoly had been broken up. On page 117 we read -
Employment is guaranteed to skilled agricultural labourers and domestic servants who have been granted assisted passages. In these callings the demand generally exceeds the supply, and, as a rule, the new arrivals are allotted places at once.
Turning to the newcomer, the Fisher Administration say -
He will find that it is extremely easy to get into the ways of the country, and that if he is ambitious to save he will be able to have plenty of healthy and interesting recreation without drawing upon his savings.
I do not mind stopping here to invite the Government to tell me and other senators how we can have this healthy and interesting recreation without it costing us a little. Yet they sent Home that message to English farmers and labourers.
– In walking about looking for work.
– That is probably what the Government meant, but as English labourers are not quite familiar with the form of humour which my honorable friend practises, it would have been more honest if the Government had stated in plain language what is meant by this healthy and interesting recreation. Here is the final paragraph with which I propose to trouble honorable senators, and which is full of food for thought -
For the hard-working, steady farm-worker who aims at becoming a freehold farmer on his own account, the most remote farm where the only expenditure is on the few clothes and little luxuries like tobacco, are the finest places imaginable. A man who gets £1 a week, with occasional additions for harvesting, &c, will, before the end of many years, be able to save sufficient to make a very fair start on his own account.
How many Labour lectures have been hung around that text in the last few months ? I challenge my honorable friends opposite to show me any statement made by a Labour advocate anywhere which does not write across that quotation, as large as possible, the words “absolutely false.” Here, again, is an appeal from a Labour Administration to workmen in the Old
Country to say that if they come out here there is hope that in a short time they will become freehold farmers on their own account. Just now we were informed that this was written in anticipation of Labour administration in the various States. But we know very well that if that anticipation were realized there would be no more freeholds issued in any of the States of the Commonwealth. The State Labour parties are pledged to put an end to the freehold tenures, which are held out in this pamphlet as an inducement to immigrants. We know that the majority, if not all, of the State Labour parties in the Parliaments which have immediate control of the lands of the Commonwealth are directly pledged against the issue of any more freehold titles.
– I notice that Tasmania is not boomed very much in the pamphlet.
– The honorable senator will find that Tasmania is also referred to as a State in which land is available for settlement. When I was dealing with the millions of acres of the other States, I may be pardoned for having omitted a quotation referring to Tasmania. But the honorable senator, if he looks through the pamphlet, will find the statement made that even in Tasmania, where land monopoly has obtained a bigger hold than in the other States, and where necessarily there is less land available because of the greater area of the other States, there is still land available for the settlement of immigrants.
– In the subdivision of big estates people will be unable to get land except on a freehold title.
– My honorable friend does not know very much about what is going on in the State Parliaments if he talks in that way. In New South Wales a battle royal was fought by the Labour party in support of the contention that repurchased lands should only be subdivided on the leasehold principle.
– I was not talking of repurchased land.
– The Wade Government proposed to attach a condition to freehold.
– Senator Gardiner reminds me that the Wade Administration proposed to provide for the issue of freehold titles to which a condition shall attach interfering with the future handling of the land.
– That is a negation of freehold.
– What is proposed is a conditional freehold, and I have no hesitation in saying that it marks the introduction of the biggest land reform that Australia has yet witnessed.
– I was talking of estates privately subdivided.
– The subdivisions of those estates must be freeholds.
– Do the paragraphs I have read from the pamphlet deal . with such estates? They refer to the millions of acres of Crown lands available for the settler upon easy terms. They refer to the State as a sympathetic landlord, to Governments in this country as paternal Governments. I emphasize again the statement that this pamphlet was issued by the present Labour Government of the Commonwealth. The statement printed for the information of workmen in the Old Country is that they may hope on coming out here to secure State lands on easy terms, and by a little industry ultimately to acquire a freehold title for them. I say that the Labour party are against freehold titles. In my own State, apart from the fact that they have on their platform the nationalization of land, whicli, of course, is fatal to freehold titles, they have constantly pursued the ideal, and whenever the matter has arisen in the State Parliament have voted for leasehold as against freehold. We are told that this pamphlet was written in anticipation of the advent of the Labour party to power. That party is in power now in the State of New South Wales, and do honorable senators mean to tell me that they will be prepared to grant freehold titles to. land? The fact is that our honorable friends opposite found it convenient to tell on? tale before the 13th April, when they were looking for votes, and were appealing to the prejudice and passion of land-hungry people.
– Then the honorable senator admits that there were landhungry people?
– There are always people hungry for the good things of this world. If Senator McGregor were placed in front of a heap of sovereigns, there would be a sovereign-hungry man in their neighbourhood as long as the honorable senator hung about. I do not claim to be different from my fellow senators in that regard.
– The honorable, senator would admit that I might be serious in such circumstances.
– I have no doubt that, in such circumstances, the honorable senator would be found to be the most serious man alive, much to the detriment of the lawful owner of the sovereigns. I should be very much surprised if my honorable friends seriously undertook to defend the action of the Government in issuing this pamphlet. If they did, they would be impaled upon the horns of a dilemma. I say that if they would defend the pamphlet, they would do away with all pretence for the passage of this Land Taxation Bill ; and if, on the contrary, they stand by the Bill, and their appeal to the electors prior to the 13th April, they should insist upon the withdrawal of this pamphlet.
– No; when the policy of the Government is carried out, the statements in the pamphlet will be true.
– Then, the least they can do is to send Home a message to say that the Labour Government of the Commonwealth is so ignorant of the ordinary meaning of plain English words that, although they have said in this pamphlet that these opportunities to become possessed of freehold titles to land exist now, what they mean is that they will exist when the legislation which they propose takes effect.
– Was not the information supplied by the State Governments, and the pamphlet compiled by them?
– I should like the honorable senator to show me where that statement is made in the pamphlet. In the very first paragraph of the foreword signed by the present Minister of External Affairs, there is the statement -
In extending to farmers and farm-workers an invitation to take advantage of opportunities that exist for prosperous settlement in Australia, the Government of the Commonwealth ….
It is clearly the Government of the Commonwealth who (are responsible for the invitation expressed in these words.
– Let the honorable senator read the concluding paragraph.
– I have shown that the pamphlet bears, on the face of it, the intimation that it is the Government of the Commonwealth who accept the responsibility for-issuing it.
– Does the honorable senator desire that we should cry “stinking fish”?
– No; but I think my honorable friends should have told the truth on both occasions. I wish them, if they say that this pamphlet is true, to admit that they made a false appeal to the electors prior to the 13th April ; and if they stand by that appeal, to write down this pamphlet as false.
– I say that it is false and rotten, and I absolutely repudiate it.
– Some of my honorable friends have been trying to seek comfort from the fact that the statements In this pamphlet are intended to indicate the condition of affairs which will exist in the happy by-and-by. Senator Long falls back upon the concluding paragraph ofthe foreword of the pamphlet. I shall quote the first and last paragraphs. They are as follow : -
In extending to farmers and farm-workers an invitation to take advantage of opportunities that exist for prosperous settlement in Australia, the Government of the Commonwealth ….
That is the Fisher Labour Administration. They are the persons who extend this invitation ; and, in the final paragraph of the foreword, the statement is made -
The contents of this book have been compiled from information furnished by responsible authorities, to whom this opportunity is taken of expressing the thanks of the Government of the Commonwealth.
They are so anxious to send this message Home, and so convinced that these opportunities do exist, that they deem it to be their duty to thank these reliable authorities, whose statements they indorse and accept. They thank them for the assistance rendered in the good work to which they put their hands.
– It was written in anticipation of the passing of this Bill.
– Half-a-dozen of my honorable friends opposite have tried to get a little comfort out of that ; but, if the statement be true, the statement that the schoolmaster is abroad in Australia must be read in a sense entirely different from that which it usually conveys. Are we to understand that opportunities which now exist means opportunities which will exist?
– There is very little difference.
– If the honorable senator cares to defend the pamphlet, I have no objection ; but there are some honorable senators sitting behind the Government who are honest enough . to say that they are not prepared to do so.
– But what about the Bill ?
– I am justified in referring to these matters, because I have pointed out that the Bill rests upon the appeal made to the electors that there is no land available in Australia that we suffer from land monopoly, and that land taxation is necessary to correct the evil. I have quoted from this pamphlet to show that, on the authority of the Fisher Administration, there is in Australia an abundance of land available for settlement on easy terms, an abundance of openings for workmen who, if they come here, may have the assurance that by a little industry they can hope before long to become freeholders on their own account. I shall not go into the merits of the contradictory statements to which I ha.ve referred. - 1 have served my purpose in showing that (he contradiction exists. If the statements in this pamphlet are correct, the Land Tax Assessment Bill ought to be withdrawn, and, if, on the other hand, honorable senators refuse to stand by the statements on which they appeal to the country in their advocacy of the taxation of land values, the pamphlet ought to go.
– There may be land available in some of the States, and not in others.
– If the honorable senator will read the pamphlet he will find that it deals with all the States.
– It does not make the assertion that there is land available in all the States.
– It does. It says -
There are available for settlement in all the States large tracts of partially cleared or improved land which can be prepared for cropping at trifling cost and without any delay for burning off.
I cannot go through the whole of the quotations I have made again, but if Senator de Largie knew anything at all about the pamphlet he would know that twothirds of it is devoted to Australia as a whole, and the remaining third to chapters on each State giving details of the land available in each. My honorable friends cannot wriggle out of the difficulty in any way. They must either accept or reject this pamphlet. It is false if the statement made before the 13th April is true, and if the statements made in the pamphlet are true, those made to the electors by our honorable friends opposite prior to the 1.3th April were not true.
– The pamphlet is a picture of things, not as they have been, but as they will be.
– I have admitted that my honorable friends are entitled to whatever comfort they can draw from that, but I am s.ure that in their hearts they are satisfied that the statements in the pamphlet do not square with their election addresses, or the manifesto issued by the Leader of the Government they support. I wish now to direct attention to the position which will be created in Australia owing to the fact that both Federal and State Governments have the power to tax land. I do not intend to raise the constitutional question at all. My own opinion is that the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled to impose the tax which the Government propose in this Bill. I leave the constitutional aspect of the question to those who are better equipped to deal with it. What I ask honorable senators to consider is the practical effect of the Commonwealth intervening with the imposition of a tax upon land. We very frequently hear references to New Zealand, but may I point out that there is a wide difference between New Zealand and Australia ? In New Zealand there is only one authority empowered to levy land taxation, if we except local authorities exercising delegated powers. In Australia we have two authorities equally capable of imposing and collecting a land tax. That brings into view the possibility of a good deal of confusion, and it may be disaster. Throughout Australia the party to which my honorable friends opposite belong are pledged to land taxation both for State and for Federal purposes. In some of the States they go further, and where they have adopted a municipal platform they advocate land taxation for municipal purposes as well. In New South’ Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, the Labour party have adopted municipal platforms, and in those States they are committed to raise revenue for Federal, State, and municipal purposes by taxation on the unimproved value of land.
– Not in every State.
– Speaking generally, the Labour party is committed to land values taxation for Federal and State purposes. Further, wherever they have a platform dealing with municipal matters they are committed to the same method of taxation for municipal purposes. I believe that I am accurately stating the position.
– In New South Wales it was never intended that the land tax should be duplicated.
– Only a little while ago, when I attempted to quote from the manifesto of Mr. Fisher, Senator Gardiner interjected that I ought to quote from the Labour platform. Now that I do so Senator Rae is not content. The platform of the Labour party in New South Wales clearly says that that party is in favour of a graduated land tax.
– If the State Labour party were returned to power before the Federal party, it was to impose the tax, and vice versa.
– There is nothing in the platform to show that.
– It has been publicly stated at the various Labour Conferences. The idea was that there should be only one land tax, and that it should be imposed either by the State or the Federal Labour party - whichever was returned to power first.
– I have a right to assume that the party went to the country upon its printed programme, which provides for a land tax.
– It went to the country on the understanding that there was to be no double land tax.
– I have nothing whatever to do with understandings. I merely desire to show that both the State and Federal Labour parties, when fresh taxation is required, wish to impose a land tax. In such circumstances, where are we going to land ourselves? Let me remind honorable senators that in South Australia, if a deficiency occurs in the revenue, the Labour party propose to make it up by levying an additional all-round land tax. One of the first acts of the present Labour Government of that State was to increase the land tax.
– That ought to be very gratifying to the honorable senator.
– I am merely pointing out the direction in which my honorable friends are seeking to carry Australia.
– The other day the honorable senator attempted to preserve to the community the whole of the communitycreated values in land.
– Does the Honorary Minister agree with that? If so, why did he vote against my proposal?
– Because it was a trap.
– When there was a chance of preventing the community from being “ taken down “ by land-owners whose land might be required for public purposes, the honorable gentleman refused to act. Evidently he would sooner see the land-owners get away with a considerable sum of money at the expense of the Com-; monwealth than support a proposal which emanated from the Opposition. I repeat that the tendency of the Labour party, throughout Australia is to collect revenue for Federal, State, and municipal purposes by means of a land tax. Where will such a policy land us? Here are three separate bodies, each seeking to supply its own needs by a tax upon land. That this is the ideal of the party is confirmed by certain remarks which were made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council in introducing this Bill. He said -
In South Australia in 1894 another step forward was taken.
Now, a “step forward” implies progress. What is his idea of a step forward? The next sentence reveals it. He said -
An additional land tax was imposed.
But even if land values taxation be ideally the most perfect form of taxation there must be great possibility of confusion and chaos when we have three separate bodies attempting to supply their needs in that way. Land will only bear a certain amount of taxation.
– Let us get rid of the State Parliaments.
– My honorable friend has already twice avowed his belief in Unification this afternoon. My point is that we cannot continue to have two governing bodies indefinitely taxing land for their own purposes without the stronger ultimately absorbing the weaker.
– What about the States and the municipalities?
– The municipalities are only exercising powers which have been delegated to them by the States. The States have full control over their own land taxes as well as over the tax which is imposed by the shires. But in the Federal arena the position is different. The effect of this tax will be to reduce values for the time being. But as the shires must have the same revenue as they previously received, they will, as land values decline, be compelled to increase the rates.
– That will not be any real increase.
– Nothing that this Parliament can do can destroy the value of land. But it is possible to transfer the value of land from the individual to the State by means of taxation.
– That is a good thing.
– I am not arguing that question. At present, I wish to make it abundantly clear that, unlike New Zealand, we occupy a difficult position, owing to the fact that two authorities are empowered to impose a tax upon land. In reality, we have three taxing powers, one of which is compelled to resort to land for revenue purposes, whilst the other two evince a strong disposition to have recourse to it. Each of these authorities realizes that the others are taking a portion of the value attaching to land. This operation has only to be pushed far enough to absolutely deprive the individual of his land values and to leave these three bodies wrangling amongst themselves for a division of the spoil.
– That is purely imaginary.
– I do not think so. Land can bear only a certain amount of taxation. When we impose more than is. in the £1 upon land values, the land does not cease to have a value, but the State has annexed the value. By means of this form of taxation the freeholder can eventually be deprived of his proprietary rights. That is the ideal al which Henry George aimed. His view was that, by collecting the full rental value upon property, ownership in it was destroyed. If the Labour party succeeds in its mission, both the States and the Commonwealth will be tempted to exact as large a share as they can out of land values. But I cannot imagine that this state of things can continue indefinitely. I cannot believe that the people will be content to allow the Commonwealth and the States each to collect taxation upon land without either paying any regard to what the other is doing, lt is not business. It does not appeal to our common sense that we should have this one commodity taxed by various agencies. For that reason some remedy will have to be found. Either there will be a tendency on the part of the Federal Labour party to press land taxation further home, or, in the other alternative, there will be a movement in the direction of Unification so as to bring the whole of the land of Australia under the Federal authority. There does not appear to be a via media. One of my objections to this tax is, therefore, that it necessarily brings into operation certain forces which, sooner or later, will compel us to unify in order to get away from the difficulties which this Bill will create.
– If the States exercise common sense they will allow the Federation to impose the land taxation. There need not be Unification then.
– But the States want revenue. Where are they to get it from ?
– From the Commonwealth.
– That means another arrangement between the States and the Federation. Were such an arrangement in force there would be no reason why there should not be one land tax.
– That would be one alternative.
– It would. At present we are taking two bites at a cherry. A much better arrangement would be for the States and the Federation to come to a mutual understanding under which one land tax would be levied and the proceeds distributed.’
– That would prevent anomalies. We cannot fix our Customs duties to suit the direct taxation of the States.
– My honorable friend’s interjection confirms what 1 am stating - that the Federal authority, by means of this land tax, creates the difficulty of overlapping, and that some means will have to be found to get over it.
– It is much easier for a State to prevent that overlapping than for the Commonwealth to do so.
– I do not know that it is. The Federal Government starts today with a land tax which honorable senators opposite will admit is fairly high, and which, I have not the slightest doubt, will be increased as time goes on, if the Labour party remains in power. The tax will be recognised as a regular means of obtaining revenue. But the States also will probably impose land taxation.
– There is an alternative - they can increase their income taxes.
– At any rate, the tendency will be for the State Labour parties to tax land. They must do so if they are to carry out their pledges.
– The Fusion party in Tasmania have imposed a land tax.
– That confirms what I have stated. I am trying to show that the tendency in Australia is such, that the
States will have to follow the lead of the Federation and look to land taxation for raising revenue. I am also showing how inconvenient it will be to have two or three authorities all levying taxation on the same commodity.
– There is no reason why they should not harmonize.
– At any rate, there is an undesirable state of affairs which should not continue any longer than we can help. There are two ways out of the difficulty. One is that ‘ suggested by Senator Gardiner, which is Unification. The other is that suggested by Senator de Largie, which is an arrangement between the States and the Federation by which one tax would be collected and the proceeds distributed. But that arrangement would make the States subordinate to the Federation. It is inconceivable that the Commonwealth Government will abate its land taxation. It will npt decrease the amount of its tax out of any regard for the finances of the States.
– The States would be no more dependent upon the Commonwealth in regard to land taxation, if such an arrangement were made, than they are dependent now upon the Federation in regard to Customs taxation.
– But the arrangement with regard to Customs taxation has made the States subordinate to the extent that they do not know from one year to another how much revenue they will receive.
– They know for the next ten years.
– They really do not, because some members of the Labour party have publicly stated that they did not. pledge themselves to the ten years’ period, and that they are quite prepared to break the arrangement that has been made.
– Not without grave reasons.
– That is an admission that if grave reasons presented themselves the arrangement would be altered.
– No Government would alter the arrangements lightly.
– Perhaps they would alter them heavily. The same remark applies with regard to a land tax. The Federation will raise whatever tax it likes; and as we have to levy a uniform tax, even if we made an arrangement with the States, a State that wanted more revenue would probably get less than it required, whilst a State that could do with less would get more than it needed. The effect, I say again, will be to help forward those forces which undoubtedly are making for the unification of Australia. My honorable friends opposite have spoken as though the duplication of a land tax by the State Labour parties would help forward the purpose of the Federal land tax. But such is not the case. What is meant is that the State Labour parties shall levy a tax on estates below ,£5,000’ in value. But I desire to point out that, in proportion ;is they do that, they will nullify the effect for which the Federal land tax is alleged to be imposed. The object of making the Federal tax progressive is to bring about the bursting up of big estates - to make it cheaper for land-owners to hold their land in blocks less than £5,000 in value. But if land taxes are also to be imposed by the States on lands under £5,000 in value, the land-owner will suddenly find that there is no inducement to cut up his estate.
– A State tax on lands below £5,000 in value would also, in all probability, be progressive-
– That does not affect my point. Suppose that the Federal land tax were id. in the /’i on estates over ,£5,000 and up to, we will say, £20,000 in value. Suppose that a landowner in New South Wales says, “ I have £25,000 worth of land, and, to escape the Federal land tax, I will subdivide my property into blocks each worth £5,000.” As the result, no Federal land tax would be paid by him. But then the State comes along and says, “ We will impose a tax of id. in the £1 on estates under £5,000 in value.” As a result, the land-owner would realize that it would be just as well for him to retain his land in its aggregated state.
– The Federal tax on a £25,000 estate would be more than id. in the £1 ; and it would therefore be worth the while of the land-owner to cut up his estate.
– My honorable friend misses my point. Let us assume that a land-owner under the Federal tax would have to pay to the Commonwealth Government £100 a year. Suppose that the land-owner said, “ To avoid the payment of this tax, I will subdivide my estate.” Then, however, the State Government would come along and levy a tax on estates under £5,000 in value, so that the land-owner would still have to pay £100 a year. The result, of course, would be that there would be no inducement to cut up the large estates.
– We shall have to remove anomalies of that kind when they arise.
– It is not likely that the Federal Parliament will surrender its land taxation. On the contrary, the tendency will be for land taxation to grow. But as the States also levy land taxes on estates below ^5,000 in value, the effect will be to minimize or nullify the bursting up properties of the Federal tax. That is a point which I think honorable senators opposite have not considered. Another object aimed at by the supporters of this Bill, as I understand them, is to secure cheap land for settlers.
– And also to secure revenue.
– I am leaving the revenue aspect of the case for the present. The effect is to be to make land cheaper for men who want to settle.
– To make it more available.
– That is the same thing. But what do honorable senators mean by cheap land? The only way in which I can define cheapness is by saying that an article is cheap when it is obtainable for something less than men are ordinarily prepared to pay for it. A sovereign is not cheap if you are asked 20s. for if. It is cheap if it is offered to you for 19s. 6d. My definition of cheapness is a price at which something can be obtained for less than men are ordinarily willing to give for it.
– If the honorable senator had to pay 25s. for a sovereign, that would be abnormally high, would it not?
– If the value of a sovereign were by some means inflated to 25s., and I was able to obtain one for 24s. 6d., that would be cheap.
– There is a fallacy involved in that argument.
– I was rather amused, during my recent trip in search of health in New South Wales-
– Which was not very successful !
– It was; to the extent that it brought affairs to a more satisfactory condition than they were in on the 13th April last. In one farming centre I visited, I was very much amused and somewhat instructed to find a Labour advocate assuring men with small holdings that they need not be afraid that the land tax would depress their land values, and in proof of his assertion he pointed to the case of New Zealand, where he said that, although a land tax had been in operation for twenty years, land was worth more today than ever it had been. I commend this statement to my honorable friends who are telling electors in other parts of the world that the effect of this tax will be to lower values, and to make land more available.
– Perfectly correct.
– I have to thank Senator Findley for expressing in a few terse words my conviction on this matter. It may temporarily depress land values, but I contend that you cannot permanently secure for this or any other country cheap land, unless, of course, you have a periodic confiscation and redistribution.
– But a temporary cheapness would enable many persons to get hold of land who otherwise would not. be able to do so.
– Does a man part with cheap land at a low price; does the ultimate user of any land get cheap land? Let us look at what is happening practically in all the States. New South Wales is making such Crown lands as it has available at prices below their market values. These are cheap lands in the sense that the State is offering them to settlers at prices less than those for which they were obtained in the open market. But do the ultimate users of these lands get them more cheaply on that account? Does the man who draws a lucky marble .in a ballot, and obtains a settlement lease of the nominal value of 30s. an acre, sell the land at a cheap rate? Does the ultimate user of a block obtained in that way get it at a cheaper price? No. Of course, a number of these persons retain possession of their land. A man who obtains a block at a cheap price invariably says, “ I intend to sell this land at its full market value,” with the result that the ultimate user must pay full value for it. All the efforts of the State to acquire cheap land for its people have resulted in some men walking off with unearned increment to a very large amount. You cannot permanently secure cheap land to the users of it.
– Only by the leasehold system.
– I never sympathized with the land users of Ireland until I became a tenant of the Crown in New
South Wales, and I can assure the honorable senator that I do not wish to hear any more about Crown leaseholds.
– They seem to be very successful in New Zealand.
– The honorable senator ought to go and talk to some of the men under the Crown before he makes that statement, because they certainly do not tell me that.
– How does the honorable senator account for the tremendous anxiety to pay a premium in order to secure some of these Crown leases?
– How does my honorable friend account for the extreme anxiety of men who have leaseholds to get freeholds? In New South Wales, a block of land is thrown open for conditional lease, or homestead selection, and the news is wired all over Australia that there are 100, 200, or 300 applicants for it, and you hear about land monopoly and land hunger. It is not land hunger, though there is a healthy demand for land. But the fact is that there would be as big a rush of applicants if I formed a Tattersall’s sweep, and said, “ Rut your money in, and if you are not successful, you shall get it back ; but if you are successful, you will win £1,000.” That is exactly what is happening with settlement leases, and in proof of my statement, let me direct attention to pamphlets which are issued by a dozen estate and stock and station firms in New South Wales. You will read of a settlement lease at a certain rent, and with improvements detailed, which it can be seen at once amount to £200 or £300, and the advertiser is asking for that block 5s., or 1 os., or 15s., or 20s. per acre, as a premium for the goodwill of the leasehold. What happens? The ultimate user of the block will not get cheap land. On the contrary, he will have to pay full market value for it, but the man who bought it at a low price from the Crown will walk off with, according to the quality of the land, anything from £500 to £2,000.
– There is a big percentage of actual users who make homes on the land.
– Yes ; but ultimately they must part with the land. In Australia, there are very few blocks which remain in the same families for any considerable period. In a young country, with men moving about, and enlarging their operations, there is a greater tendency to sell one home and form another than there is in an old established country.
– So long as they sell to persons who will put the land to its best use, is it not all right?
– The aim of this Bill, we have been told, is to make land available to the people, but all the efforts of New South Wales to do that have failed so far as the ultimate user of land is concerned.
– They have failed because of the difficulty to discriminate between the land settler and the land dealer. That is impossible.
– My honorable friend, with his transcendental ability, could not do that. Suppose that all the lands of Australia were vested in the Commonwealth Government, and that it decided to cut them up into blocks of £5,000 value, and to present a block to every man who wanted land, do my honorable friends believe that it would be possible afterwards to obtain cheap land in Australia - that it could be obtained more cheaply than it can to-day? The next man who came along and wanted a block would have to pay full market value for it. Under this Bill you may depress land values to enable persons to secure land from the present holders more cheaply than it can be obtained now. But your problem will again present itself in the course of a very few years. The next men who will want land will be confronted with the difficulty which confronts land-seekers now.
– We shall try some other method then.
– The same method will do. All that you need is to keep on, by process of legislative confiscation or compulsion, taking land from one class to give it to another - you only want to alter the details, and you can resort to this process every five years. My honorable friends have no right to be generous at the expense of individuals or classes. Speaking with some knowledge of this subject, I am convinced that all the efforts which New South Wales has made to provide cheap land for its people have, in the end, made that land dearer. The effect of offering settlement leases, homestead selections, conditional leases on easy terms at so much below their market value, has been that persons have come along and offered the holders more than the land was worth, considering the obligation to the Crown which it carried. It has sent up the values of freehold estates. Let me give an illustration. Take the case of a conditional lease. A man comes along and takes the land from the Crown at the nominal value of £1 an acre. He is required to pay a deposit of 2S. per acre, and there are three acres to one acre of conditional lease for which he pays quite a nominal rental, and at the end of his lease, which is a long one - from thirty to forty-two years - he has the right to convert it into a freehold on the present” value of £1 per acre. Another man will come along, and say to him, “ You owe the State £1 an acre on this conditional lease.” The land is worth 30s. per acre, and, therefore, he ought to offer to the holder 10s. per acre, owing the Crown £1. But he will offer £1, because he says, “ I have not to pay the £1 to the Crown for a long period.” He gives the holder more than the actual value of the land. The result is that on paper the holder is paid £1 per acre for land which carries an obligation of £1 to the Crown. In the popular mind the idea has been to stamp that land as being worth £2 per acre. When the freeholder alongside that holding is approached by this buyer, he says, “ No, you gave my neighbour £1 per acre for land which was mortgaged to the extent of £1 ; therefore you shall also give me £2 per acre for my land.” The net result of the efforts of past Governments and Legislatures in New South Wales to provide cheap land has been to raise land values.
– Was not that because they allowed speculation in land?
– Are my honorable friends on the other side stopping persons from speculating now?
– I hope so.
– I never saw such a magnificent chance for a man to speculate in land as is offered under this measure. It will open the widest door to speculation which has ever been opened in Australia. Its . effect will be to largely destroy the equity of redemption. It will bring many a man who is staggering under the load of a heavy mortgage into such a position that once land values fall he will be hopeless. The man who holds the mortgage will say, “ There is no inducement for me to carry this person any longer.” A man with sufficient capital to lift the mortgage, can get the land at two-thirds of the value at which it stood before this Bill was passed, and by going through the process of subdivision make a fortune.
– Cannot the man who has such a mortgage make a fortune, too?
– All that he is entitled to is the amount that is mortgaged, and when he can get that he is satisfied.
– Who will get the balance ?
– The speculator.
– Cannot the other man become a speculator?
– The mortgagor has not a” sixpenny-piece to jingle on a tombstone. He is helpless.
– -Suppose that the value of the land drops below the value of the mortgage?
– The mortgagor is ruined all the same, and, in addition, something has been taken from the mortgagee, no doubt to my honorable friend’s intense satisfaction. I want to deal now with another aspect of this matter, and that is the somewhat changed attitude which my honorable friends adopt as to the reasons for this Bill. We know that prior to its presentation the object was the bursting up of estates. On looking through the speech of Senator McGregor, I find that he addressed himself to the necessity for raising revenue. But before I quote what he said on the subject, let me remind him of the manifesto whicli I have read. There was no word in that about raising revenue from land taxation. The purpose was to destroy land monopoly. At the Brisbane Conference, Mr. Batchelor said that what they proposed would be destructive of revenue, and several other members of the Conference indorsed the statement.
– It will destroy a certain amount of revenue.
– The Government are proposing a tax of id. in the £1, rising by gradations to an amount necessary to make it effective. If that is to be done, and the object of the tax is attained, they will not be able to get revenue from it.
– The honorable senator will admit that that would take time.
– My contention is that that is the point of view from which the proposal was placed before the public. Now Senator McGregor dwells upon the revenue-yielding aspect of this measure.
– So does the Argus.
– But my honorable friend does not always take the Argus as his guide, counsellor, and friend.
– No ; but the honorable senator does.
– I do not; nor the Argus or any other newspaper. Senator McGregor, in introducing the Bill, said -
Every honorable senator must realize that in order to carry on the Government it is necessary to tap almost every avenue for the purpose of making up the revenue required.
This is the statement we have from the honorable senator in submitting a Bill which is intended to be effective in the bursting up of estates which, if realized, would mean that no further revenue would be forthcoming from this source.
– That depends on where the honorable senator thinks that land monopoly begins.
– There is no doubt as to where Senator McGregor thinks it begins, because the Government propose to start this taxation upon estates of over £5,000 in value. We know well that when Protectionists speak of “effective” protection what they mean is the imposition of a duty so heavy as to effectually prohibit imports. Similarly, when honorable senators speak of an effective land tax designed for the purpose of bursting up estates, it can only be said to be effective in so far as it succeeds in the bursting up of estates, and to the extent to which it succeeds it must destroy revenue.
– By a gradual process.
– I am not concerned as to whether the process would be gradual or not. Of course, we know that all that is anticipated could not happen in twentyfour hours. What I wish to direct attention to is Senator McGregor’s assurance that we must tap almost every avenue for the purpose of making up the revenue required. Whilst the honorable senator lays down as a canon of taxation that we should tap almost every avenue, the Government are clearly proposing to derive the revenue they require from only one avenue. There is no attempt to touch any source of wealth other than that represented by land. The honorable senator went on to say -
We believe that with respect to defence and other matters direct taxation is the proper source from which the greater portion of the revenue should come.
Though the honorable senator said that he clearly did not mean it. What he meant was not direct taxation which applies to all forms of direct taxation. The honorable senator meant to refer only to this special form of direct taxation. I am at a loss to understand how it can be contended that the cost of defence should be a charge upon only one form of property in Australia.
– It will not contribute the whole of the amount necessary.
– The honorable senator did not say so. What he said was that, with respect to defence and other matters, direct taxation is the proper source from which to derive revenue. Why should one form of wealth only be asked to contribute towards the cost of the defence of the country?
– We can only deal with one thing in one Bill.
– I remind my honorable friend that in the Budget statement he made he showed that the amount of revenue to be received from this taxation would be sufficient for the purpose, and that there would be no need to look elsewhere for revenue.
– No, I did not.
– I have no doubt that the figures put forward are open to serious challenge, but I was assuming them to be authentic.
– Are we not getting a big revenue through the Customs?
– That is not my point. I am referring to the statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that wealth should pay for the defence of the country. Senator Rae indorsed that statement.
– And I do now.
– But Senator McGregor did not mean it. The honorable senator meant to refer to only one form of wealth. To my mind, there is nothing logical in saying that the defence of the country shall be a charge upon the land, whilst the shipping around our coasts, which is much more liable to attack in the event of a hostile demonstration against this country, should go scot-free. I see no objection to the wealth of a country making a liberal contribution to the cost of its defence, but I say that the canon of taxation laid down by Senator McGregor, though sound, is violated in this Bill.
– We cannot carry out everything in one Bill.
– But the honorable senator does not mean to do so.
– If the honorable senator has any income, he may have to pay up.
– In answer to that interjection, I may say that I believe that this Bill is merely part of a system by which my honorable friends opposite, whether they know it or not, are seeking to make a raid upon those who have something in this country.
– What would be the use of raiding those who have nothing?
– I do not believe that my honorable friends ate viewing this matter from the stand-point of justice. It is sufficient for them to know that there is a class possessing wealth to justify them in making a raid upon them.
– Absolutely. What would be the use of making a raid upon a man who has nothing?
– There is no reason why we should not make a just demand upon all sections of the community. This is the first of a series of measures which can only be regarded as legislative pillage. There is no justice in this measure.
– It is justice.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the majority of the Australian people have authorized us to pillage from themselves?
– No, they have not done so. But honorable senators have behind them a majority of people who have authorized them to pillage from a small number who are not of their way of thinking.
– That small number have hitherto been pillaging from the lot. We can get home on them now.
– The honorable senator means to say that the reason why we are asked to pass this Bill is that because in the past minorities have done an injustice to the majority, now that the majority are in power they should in turn get even with the minority.
– Recover what was robbed from them.
– By robbing back.
-No, it would be restitution.
– Wjiat the honorable senator calls “ restitution “ I call “pillage.”
– Why stop the restitution at estates worth less than . -£5,000 ?
– That is a pertinent question, and the answer to it may be read throughout this Bill. It is robbery if it is done in small parcels when the money is taken from those whose votes support my honorable friends opposite, but it is only restitution when it is taken from those who are not of their political way of thinking.
– The honorable senator has answered that himself by saying that the State Parliaments can tax the rest.
– I have said that to the extent to which the State Parliaments avail themselves of that opportunity they will destroy the effect of my honorable friends’ progressive land taxation. I should like to say a word or two upon what, for lack of some more precise term, I may euphemistically call Senator McGregor’s estimate of the revenue yield under this Bill. In this portion of his address the honorable senator was unable to exclude from his remarks evi- dences of the class bitterness and feeling to which he and his party appeal. He spoke of the big taxpayers “ doing “ the Government, and said that the small taxpayers are taxed to the uttermost farthing, whilst the wealthy land-owners are not’ taxed on more than a quarter of the real value of their estates. That is a strong indictment of those controlling the shires in this country.
– And it is true.
– I challenge the honorable senator to produce anything worthy of the name of evidence in support of the statement.
– I could do it.
– The honorable senator can make assertions and may submit the unsupported assertions of others, and tell us that he believes them to be true.
– I can bring my own experience.
– The honorable senator’s experience does not entitle him to speak for a whole series of shires. I say that his statement is an indefensible exaggeration.
– There must be a grain of truth in it if it is an exaggeration.
– No stronger indictment was ever launched against the local governing bodies’ of Australia than the statement that the small man has been taxed to the uttermost farthing, whilst the wealthy are not being taxed on more than quarter of the value of their property. If that be so, I ask what my honorable friends opposite have been doing, in view of their strong representation in the State Parliament, that they have not long since put in a plea for the small man who is taxed to the uttermost farthing, whilst the big man has been allowed to escape 75 per cent, of his obligations? As a matter of fact, the statement cannot be supported.
– The honorable senator may find ample evidence of the truth of it in Tasmania.
– Order ! Senator Millen has at different times tried to make his speech without interruptions. I remind honorable senators who are continually interjecting that they will have a right to speak on this question.
– I cannot believe that Senator McGregor, in his normal moments, would undertake to defend such a statement. He must know that, though different standards of value may be adopted by valuers in adjoining shires, the standard of value is the same upon every property in a particular shire. There are appeal Courts to which those who consider that their properties are overvalued can go foc redress. We cannot forget the influence of public opinion in restricted localities, where every one knows what is going on ; and I venture to say that whether the valuations in a particular shire are high or low, they are uniform.
– In Tasmania the shire councils are comprised of large land-owners, who assess their own properties.
– Who accepts the assessments ?
– The State Government. The shire councils assess their own properties, and the Government accept their assessments.
– I do not know enough about the intricacies of the Tasmanian puzzle.
– The honorable senator evidently does not.
– I venture to say that if I did I should find a complete answer to the statements made. I refuse to believe that even in Tasmania the authorities adopt a system which makes an absolute farce of the business.
– What is the value of the appeal Courts to which the honorable senator referred if the assessment is loo low?
– What about the small man who, according to Senator McGregor, is taxed to the utmost farthing ? He would only need to go to an appeal Court, and if he could show that his land of similar value to that held by a wealthy neighbour had been assessed at a much higher relative valuation, there is no appeal Court in the world that would not write his assessment down.
– Yes there is.
– It would be a public scandal otherwise.
– Of course it would. Honorable senators are ready enough to make exaggerated and reckless statements, but they submit no facts in support of them. Senator McGregor went on to say that in Victoria valuations are from 7^ per cent, to 60 per cent, under the real values. I do not know that the honorable senator ought to be in this Chamber. How can he, sitting here, institute a minute inspection of the value of each block of land in Victoria?
– In making that statement I was quoting the State Treasurer of Victoria.
– The honorable senator did not say so. He spoke as though he were making the statement on his own authority. He did not say that what he meant was that some one else had made this statement.
– It is public property.
– The honorable senator in his speech made the statement on his own authority. Now that I am told that it was made on the authority of a State Treasurer I receive it with a little more respect, but I am disposed to believe that it was made merely for oratorical effect.
– It is quite true.
– Here is another honorable senator who knows that it is true. The Vice-President of the Executive Council made another statement on which he bases his estimate of the yield of revenue from this taxation. Although he believed the statement of the State Treasurer of Victoria, he gave his own opinion on the subject. He said that he assumed that the undervaluation was 25 per cent., although he believed that it was nearer 50 per cent. Why should the honorable senator, believing that the undervaluation is 50 per cent., assume that it is only 25 per cent. ?
– To allow a reasonable margin.
– Yes, a reasonable margin of j’oo per cent. I am glad to have some idea as to what my honorable friends mean by “reasonable.” The VicePresident of the Executive Council may state what basis he likes for the estimate of revenue to be derived from this taxation, but I think the estimate of £ 1,000,000 is calculated from a consideration of. the revenue likely to be derived from other sources. We have only to look at the Budget to see why the estimated revenue from the land tax was set down at ,£1,000,000. The reason is that the difference between the ordinary expenditure and the ordinary revenue for the year totalled that amount.
– That estimate was framed long before the Budget was prepared.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council may say so; but I hold that any one who looks at the national balance-sheet, will see at a glance that there was just ;£i, 000,000 between the ordinary receipts and the ordinary expenditure for the year; and the new item of revenue was intended to make up that deficiency.
– And the Treasurer balanced his accounts to a penny on a revenue of ^16,000,000.
– That is the real basis of the estimated revenue to be derived from the land tax. Had there been a deficiency of ,£1,250,000, the Government would have estimated the tax to yield that sum. But if the Government had estimated that the tax would return more than £1,000,000, the accounts would have shown a surplus; and that circumstance would have been used as an argument in favour of a reduction of the tax. Consequently, the only course open to Ministers was to say, “ Whatever may be the amount of the deficiency, that is the amount which we expect the tax to yield.” The Vice-President of the Executive Council also stated that, owing to the machinations of wicked land-owners who had undervalued their estates, the amount collected in New South Wales from land tax had fallen from £400,000 to £8o,ooo. He declared that the land-owners had persistently undervalued their holdings. Nothing of the kind. It is quite true that New South Wales is collecting only £80,000 by way of land tax, but it must be recollected that in all but a limited area, the Government of that State have handed over the collection of the tax to the various shires. The sum which is now being collected by way of land tax is being collected in areas in which there are no shires. The VicePresident of the Executive Council made still another statement, which ought not to be permitted to pass unchallenged. He said that since 1900 the area of cultivated land in Australia had decreased. I do not know where he got his information; but it is hopelessly wrong. If he will direct his attention to Knibbs, page 378, he will find that in every State except South Australia, there has been an increase in the area under cultivation. Yet the honorable gentleman, who might be expected to have verified a simple statement of that sort before using it as an argument, actually declared that there had been a decrease. Such a statement might perhaps be made outside with impunity ; but it ought not to be made here.
– Is impunity a sort of sauce which assists one to swallow a bitter statement?
– It is the sort of thing with which my honorable friends excite a good deal of enthusiasm when they are addressing meetings from hotel balconies on Saturday nights. I should like to see an even greater extension of the area of cultivated land in Australia. But one of the chief drawbacks to the rapid advance of the plough has been the high price of wool. The plough has always pushed ahead more when the price of that commodity has been low. The moment that wool falls from 9d. or rod. per pound to 6d. or /d. per pound, land-owners are under compulsion to make their land yield more than it is yielding. I recollect that, some years ago, when Sir George Reid, as Premier of New South Wales, removed the duties upon agricultural produce, his action was followed by a sudden bound in the area under wheat cultivation. Some Free Traders at once pointed to this circumstance as an evidence of the benefits which flowed from the adoption of their favourite fiscal doctrine. But the fact was that, just at the time, wool had fallen to an unpayable point, and in order to make a living the land-owners had to abandon wool and take to cultivation. A man with 2.500 acres can easily make a good livelihood out of wool -growing while the price of that article remains at 9d. or 10d. per lb., and consequently there is no very great temptation for him to go in for cultivation. But when his income sinks by 30 or 40 per cent., the pressure is upon him to turn his land to more profitable account. It is the good seasons which have prevented more settlers from growing wheat.
– And fat lambs.
– Exactly. That is the explanation of why the area under cultivation has not increased as rapidly as it might have done. But it does not alter the fact that the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council was hopelessly wrong. The honorable gentleman further said -
The dairymen who does not cultivate fodder crops is not worth having in this country.
– Many of them do not cultivate crops.
– Then they are unworthy occupiers of the lands of Australia. If the honorable senator’s statement be correct, I have only to say that the man who is engaged in dairying, and does not cultivate fodder crops, has too much land.
Does the honorable gentleman still think that?
– Then why does he not propose to tax the dairy farmer?
– Is not that what the Bill will do?’
– Very few dairymen will escape.
– I wish that my honorable friends had a larger knowledge of Australia, because they would not then speak in that way. As a matter of fact, very few dairymen will pay this tax. If we calculate £40 an acre as the cost of a dairy farm of 100 acres, its capital value would be £4,000 and not one dairyman in fifty has land of that value.
– Only a few weeks ago I saw dairy farmers working on land which they would not part with at less than £150 per acre. They are taking six crops of lucerne off it each year.
– I do not doubt the honorable senator’s statement, but there must be some circumstances connected with that land which are quite abnormal. Some of the best lucerne land with which I am acquainted is to be found on the Hunter and Peel Rivers in New South Wales. But it is not worth anything like £150 per acre. When Senator de Largie talks about £150 per acre being paid for lucerne land, I say at once that there must be some exceptional local circumstances to account for the price.
– All the dairy farmers in that district go in for cultivation.
– That is not my point. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has affirmed that noncultivation is an evidence that a dairy farmer has too much land. If he be really sincere in his statement, then why does he not propose to tax such an individual ? I would further point out that on the northern rivers of New South Wales there is an enormous area of land which, owing to the mildness of the climate, it is not absolutely necessary to cultivate. But some of the dairy farmers who are not cultivating have deemed it wise to increase the area under artificial grasses from r, 000, 000 acres to 2,500,000 acres.
– They could not carry cattle on that country if they did not put it under artificial grasses.
– We could not have any bread if we did not grow wheat. In all fairness, the area which has been placed under artificial grasses ought to be added to that which is under cultivation.
– The growing of artificial grasses is a form of cultivation.
– I certainly had no intention of occupying the attention of the Senate for such a prolonged period ; but if honorable senators will bear with me a little longer I will deal with what are supposed to be the two principles of this Bill.
– We are only asking for a little interest, not for the principal.
– It seems to me that my honorable friends wish to take a great portion of the capital. From time to time we have heard dissertations in this Chamber to the effect that community-created values should be preserved to the community. Nobody has urged that more strongly than has Senator Stewart. But can it be contended that this Bill will impose a tax on incremental values? It proposes to tax where there is no increment, but does not tax where there is. It violates that principle in every corner of it. It is, to my mind, quite an arguable theory that the increment of land is a fair subject for taxation. But this Bill does not do that. This Bill comes along and says, “ Increment or no increment, if land is held in a certain way by certain people, we will impose a tax upon it. But, on the other hand, increments may exist and stare us in the face, and we will not lay a hand on them as long as they are held in a different form.” If this were a tax by means of which any portion of the publicly created increment was to be taken it would receive respect, if not support. But I say again that the Bill violates every sound principle of land taxation. Let us look at it from the point of view of land policy. It has been said that it is impossible to get land in Australia, except in districts which are unsuitable for small settlement. Well, this tax falls heavily on those very lands which are admitted to be unsuitable for settlement. What is the use of putting a tax on them? The object of the Bill is to provide land for settlement, and that, I suppose, is why the Government are going to put a tax on land on the Paroo, and at Tibooburra, with a rainfall of from 6 to 8 inches, in just the same way as they impose a tax on city blocks.
– Very little of that land is freehold.
– That does not matter. I am reminded of the story told by Charles Lamb, of the Chinaman who burnt clown his house in order to roast a pig. Some honorable senators will remember how that land became freehold. Not a single squatter desired to freehold his property in that country. But under the legislation passed by the New South Wales Parliament they had no option. A law was passed under which any selector could enter and select a portion of” a leased estate, and if improved, secure the improvements for nothing. The object was not stated in so many words, but that was the effect. But in order to give the landholder protection for his improvements, they allowed him to buy an area ot land around each improvement made to the extent of 1 acre for every £1 he had spent. That was the only way by which these men in the far western country could protect themselves ; and that country is no ideal place for the small selector, as you well know, Mr. President, from your experience of similar country in Queensland. The only way, I say, in which these squatters could protect their improvements was by buying areas of land around them.
– It was not a Labour Government that did that.
– No, but the men who have these big estates did not go out into the back country with the idea of building up areas of freehold land. They purchased their land as the only means by which they could maintain the integrity of their holdings. A man who was putting down a 20,000-yard tank, which could have been ruined by some selector picking 640 acres around it, and simply paying £60 down as an original deposit, had to protect himself by purchase, or not a single one of his sheep would have been allowed to water there.
– The Labour party was not responsible for that legislation.
– But it is desirable to show the circumstances under which some of these men obtained their land.
– The circumstances which enabled them to peacock their holdings.
– There was no peacocking of holdings in the western district of New South Wales to which I am referring. A little later, the Government of the country proposing to subdivide holdings which were ill-fitted for settlement, introduced a proposition by which a run-holder was able to exchange acre for acre scattered blocks upon which the original squatter had erected his woolshed and his tanks for one block close to the homestead. The result is that to-day, in the western division, there are many holdings consisting of considerable areas which were got together under compulsion. The land ib absolutely unsuitable for what is called small settlement. I venture to say that Senator Rae has not an enemy in the whole of Australia whom he would recommend to settle in such country. Yet we have in this Bill a proposal - which may be good in itself as applied to a great deal of land - which, in order to tax certain lands, will also put a heavy impost where it will be utterly unsuitable.
– This is a platform Bill.
– It is a Bill prepared in accordance with a platform drawn up by some people who, like Senator Rae, do know better, but also by others who know nothing about the lands of this country. There was never a more crude and ill-considered proposal than this which would apply to the whole of Australia, or even to the whole of New South Wales, one system as though one system were fairly applicable to all the lands of that State.
– We could not constitutionally do otherwise.
– Now we have an admission that my contention is right - that this Bill will operate absurdly in some districts, but that the Government are going to impose a tax which will operate in this manner, because they have no constitutional power to deal with land otherwise. Is not that an admission that the subject ought to be left to the States, and that the Government are straining at the Constitution - seeking to go beyond it in every direction - in order to carry out the policy of taking from those who have land for the benefit of those who have not? Similar considerations apply to the proposal to tax city lands. Until this Bill was introduced, no member of the Labour party anywhere had ever suggested the possibility of taxing city lands for the purpose of bursting them up.
– I did.
– I always exempt Senator Rae, for the reason that what other people do not do he is always willing to do, whilst what other people do he is never willing to do. But even he, I venture to say, never proposed that a tax should be levied with the object of bursting up city lands.
– The main object is to raise revenue.
– The honorable senator’s party did not tell the people that when they wanted their votes. Not a word was said about revenue then. The whole purpose was represented to be to burst up the big estates, and the progressive element in the proposal shows that that was the object in view.
– I said, from dozens ot platforms, that we wanted revenue.
– My honorable friend is so new in these matters that we need not take him as an authority in the presence of better-informed members of the Labour party.
– Was not Mr. Fisher abused in the newspapers of New South Wales because he proposed to tax city lands ?
– I do not even take the newspapers as authorities - except when they adversely criticise my honorable friend, and then, in all probability, they are right. It is possible that some members of the honorable senator’s party did advocate a tax on city lands. If the Government were proposing a land values tax for revenue purposes, no one would think of exempting them. But when the progressive element was introduced, the object clearly was to bring about the bursting up of large estates, and it becomes an absurdity magnified ten times to apply that principle to city lands, which cannot be subdivided.
– Why is there graduation in the operation of the income tax?
– In the case of the income tax, there is an exemption at what is considered to be a living rate of income, and beyond that the more a man has the more he is able to pay to the State. But that principle does not apply to land.
– It does largely.
– Take the case of a large block of land used for an important manufacturing enterprise which it is impossible to carry on upon a smaller block. The progressive element of this tax would undoubtedly operate for the purpose of subdivision. No one can deny that. But you cannot divide city lands, for the simple reason that if you did business could not be carried on.
– A big industry can afford to pay a larger tax than a smaller one.
– That is another matter altogether. If we are going to act on that principle, we should levy the tax according to the profit derived from the business, and not according to the value of the land on which the business is conducted. There are some businesses which with a turnover of £100,000 are conducted on land worth, we will say, £6,000, and there are other businesses with a turnover of £60,000 conducted on land worth, say, £100,000. But this Bill does not take that into account, for the simple reason that the Constitution does not enable a differentiation to be made between one class of land and another.
– Would the honorable senator help us to extend the Constitution?
– I am not prepared to help the honorable senator’s party to do anything, except to extend to them that measure of rope which I am prepared to let them have at all times. To show how absurdly this Bill will operate as to lands which no one desires to make available for settlement, because they are not suitable, let me point out that there are probably, in New South Wales, hundreds of estates over £20,000 in value, lt is customary for Labour orators to point to the few really big estates of Australia, as if they were typical of the whole. But, as a matter of fact, the bulk of our better class land is not held in enormous estates. It is held in areas ranging in value to about £20,000, ,£30,000 and £40,000.
– Those estates will pay very little.
– Then the tax will be ineffective.
– Then we shall have to make the tax effective.
– I have said that I do not regard this Bill as conclusive in itself, but merely as a finger-post marking the road on which we shall have to go if it is passed. It is now admitted by Senator Stewart that this is only the thin end of the wedge ; and it is to the honorable senator’s credit that when he once makes an admission he will stick to it - as long as it suits him. In New South Wales the land most suitable for settlement - the land which, if I were called upon to set it aside for smaller holdings, I should choose for the purpose - is not held in estates which are large in themselves. They are very much smaller, in fact, than the typical estates which have been picked out for the purpose of platform illustration. But let me show the effect of the tax upon these estates. Take an estate of the taxable value of ,£30,000. On an estate of that kind it may be taken for granted that in our better districts - and it is only in such districts that I would do anything to encourage small settlement - you may safely add on 10s. or 15s. an acre for improvements and stock carried. If you do that, you will probably run an estate worth £30,000 up to ,£40,000.
– Would the honorable senator say that 25 per cent, is a fair average value for the improvements?
– That would depend upon circumstances. What I say is that on an estate worth £30,000 in New South Wales, it would be fair to estimate another £10,000 for improvements and stock. The owner of that property looks for a return on his total investment whether it is in land, or improvements, or stock. Therefore, he will calculate his return on a sum of £40,000.
– What percentage would he recognise as a fair return - 10 per rent. ?
– Suppose that we say 8 per cent.
– With a 1.0 per cent, return, he would be all right.
– If he got 10 per cent, every year, he would not be doing wrong, but in New South Wales there are such little incidents as droughts. We have had droughts lasting for very many years, in fact, so pitiful that they have left behind them a legacy which has not been wiped off to-day in spite of the phenomenally good seasons we have had. On an estate of that value, which would pay in land tax from ,£100 to £125, or £130, and return say 8 per cent, on a value of £40,000, that is a total of £3,200 a year, your land tax will be a mere insignificant income tax on the total investment.
– What is the honorable senator growling about, then?
– I am not growling. These lands which I affirm are the best situated for small settlement will not be broken up by the land tax.
– Then we shall increase the tax.
– That is the point to which I am leading. My honorable friend admits not only my facts, but my contention that this is but the first of a series of measures of this kind. In order to carry out their pledge to the electors, about which, by the way, they have already treated them very cavalierly, they must go further, otherwise this measure will fail. It cannot be effective in its present form.
– Prudence in Parliament will make it effective.
– lt is clear to me that a man with a property worth £40,000, on which he is getting a good return, is not likely to disrupt it because he has to pay an income tax ranging from 3d. to 4d. in the £1 of his income. There are, I quite admit, very big estates which may be subdivided, but most of the good which my honorable friend will do in that way will be more than balanced by the amount of harm done in respect of lands which are unsuitable for settlement. It will not be effective in the case of the great bulk of the land which is fit for settlement. This Bill, it appears to me, has been shaped not merely with the desire to carry out the policy of the Government, but has had jammed into its compass as much harshness as possible. There is not merely the desire to collect this revenue, and to enforce the principles of the Act, but a manifest desire to act in the harshest possible manner. All through the Bill, the land-owner is treated not as a citizen, or a taxpayer, but as a malefactor who has to be dealt with by the rigorous application of legislative penalties. It is full of instances of that kind. Take, for instance, the provision for the return of the assessment. The Bill throws upon the owner the obligation of valuing his own land, less improvements. In other words, to give the total value of the estate, and to strike off a certain amount for improvements-
– He is best able to do that.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that at the commencement of its operation, it will be necessary for every land-owner to value his own estate. Why? Not for the reason just given by Senator Findley - not because the land-owner was the best person to do the work - but because the Government have not the time in which to appoint assessors.
– That is not the sole reason.
– That was the sole reason given by Senator McGregor. I have no doubt that if Senator Pearce had had charge of the Bill he would have given another reason. Senator Findley has already given another reason. I do not hesitate to say that Senator McGregor gave the correct reason.
– No ; it is one of many.
– The Government being anxious to get the Bill into operation, throw upon the land-owner the obligation to make his assessment, but that does not justify the penalty attached to it. If a man misjudges the value. of his land by 25 per cent., it is to be taken from him.
– Not necessarily. It would have to be shown that he intentionally did so.
– There is no such intention indicated in the Bill as it comes here. I wish to show how impossible it is - for even unbiased experts to arrive at anything like unanimity as to the value of land. It is assumed, with more or less justification, that public servants proceed about their business in an unbiased way. But let me draw the attention of the Senate to valuations arrived at by valuers in the Lands Department of New South Wales, in order to show what great variations occur in regard to some classes of land. We have a law which provides for the reappraisement of conditional purchases and conditional leases. We also have a law under which the State resumes land. The State is placed under one measure as a seller, and under the other as a buyer. It sends out officers of the Lands Department to value land, and we are told that they are unbiased. Well, here are some figures showing actual valuations. In the case of one estate which came before the Land Board, die valuers for the Department valued the land unimproved at 50s. per acre, and improved at 60s. A little later, when the State wanted to resume the estate for the purpose of closer settlement, it sent out other valuers from the same Department, and they valued the land at 31s. 6d. per acre on the existing titles - that is, with a certain amount due to the Crown. What it was I cannot exactly say, but it could not have been much. It never could have been more than £1 on the whole area, and it must have been less on a great deal of it considering when the land was originally taken up. As it was an old estate, and liable to pay is. per acre per year, the probability is that very few shillings per acre remained unpaid. If I take one-half of the original amount as being still due, it means that the land which the Department’s assessors valued at 60s. per acre before the Land Board, when they were fighting for a high value for the Department, was valued by them at 46s. per acre when they were trying to depress the value with a view to purchasing the estate. There is a case showing a variation of 50 per cent, in the valuations.Again, take the case of a number of conditional leases on one holding which were leased at 1 1/2d. per acre. In the exercise of its right to re-appraise the value, the Lands Department sent out its assessors. Before the Land Board they gave evidence iti which they put the yearly rental of these blocks, which were originally leased at i£d. per acre, at 3s. 4d., 2s. nd., 2s. 4d., and is. 1 id. per acre. In spite of the evidence given by the experts of the Department, the Land Board, which is composed of practical men, fixed the value at 3d. per acre where the departmental experts had recommended 3s. 4d., at 4d. where they had recommended 2s. nd., at 3d. where they had recommended 2s. 4d., and at 4d. where they had recommended is. nd.
– Perhaps something had happened in the interval.
– My honorable friend is not acquainted with the procedure of our Lands Boards; the whole business is done at the one sitting. There is no limit to the extent to which a Land Board differs from expert valuers.
– I guarantee that the honorable senator could give an explanation of that variation.
– It is impossible to get any two or three experts to agree as to what should be the .basis of the valuation of land. I have spoken at much greater length than I intended to do. I can only express the hope that I have not unduly wearied honorable senators. To my mind, this Bill is crude in itself, and illconceived, and whatever temporary benefits may be conferred on a limited number of persons, its ultimate effect will be disastrous, rather than beneficial, to Australia as a whole.
– I draw attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– Foiled again !
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Senator Lt.-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [8.0]. - I rise to address myself to the second reading of this Bill with a good deal of diffidence, because I know it is assumed that I am one of those who have a personal interest in the measure. There are, however, various aspects of the question upon which I should like to say a few words. I believe that it has been urged that the primary reason for the introduction of the measure is the necessity of raising revenue for the purpose of defence. I need hardly say that at first blush such a reason very naturally appeals to me. But when I -look into the Bill I find that, instead of being restricted to a proposal to raise revenue for the purpose of defence, it is a new and most sweeping piece of legislation. Under the cloak of an instrument for the raising of revenue for defence, a direct attack is made upon a small section of the people that alone is asked to provide the revenue required. This small section is practically confined to those holding land in fee-simple. That being the case, I consider the measure is tainted, and I am forced to regard it from the outset with suspicion. The holders of land in fee-simple have .relied upon contracts with past Governments for the assurance that they will be permitted to enjoy the use of their land subject to reasonable taxation. I intend to submit for the consideration of honorable senators the particulars as to three estates which will serve to illustrate the ill-considered effect and hardship which this measure will bring about. I take first the case of a property which was sold recently for .£16,500.
– In Tasmania?
.- Yes, I am alluding to Tasmania.
– Would not some of that amount be represented by improvements ?
.- I hope to be able to make everything connected with these illustrations quite clear before I sit down. Honorable senators may be quite sure that I am in earnest about this matter.
– We all believe that.
.- And honorable senators will have reason to do so some of these days. The capital value of this property is £16,500. The annual value on which State taxation is paid toda> ‘s £^70. There is a mortgage on the property of .£12,500, the interest on which amounts to £562 10s. annually. I quote this property as a fair example of what may be the effect of this measure in a number of cases. If any honorable senator should care to verify my statements concerning it, I have no doubt that permission might be obtained for them to inspect the property. I have taken the market value of this estate as the capital value. I deduct for what I consider to be improvements on the property, a sum amounting to ,£2,500, covering a house, fencing, and other improvements. This leaves the unimproved capital value at £14,000. From this amount there must be deducted £5,000, the amount of the exemption under this Bill.
– The property is very badly improved.
– The Honorable senator will be good enough to hold his tongue, and to keep his interjections to himself unless he addresses me through the President.
– I made a reasonable interjection.
.- I do not care whether the honorable senator is a Minister or not. I appeal to the President to make him hold his tongue.
– The honorable sena= tor cannot do that.
-.- I shall make you do it, sir.
– The honorable senator will not do it by threats.
– Order I
.- The figures I have given show that the taxable value of this property, under this Bill, would be £9,000. The proposed Federal land tax on that would amount to ,£48 15s. a year. The State taxation on the property, at the present time, amounts to £51 ns. 3d. annually. It is higher than the proposed Federal graduated land tax. I desire to point out that the effect of the superimposition of the Federal tax upon this already highly taxed property will be very serious.
– Is the Tasmanian taxation levied on the full value of the property, or is any exemption allowed by- the State?
-Colonel CAMERON.- The State taxation is imposed on the capital value of the property, namely, £16,500. There is no exemption provided for at present. A new graduated system of land taxation is proposed to be introduced in Tasmania, under which improvements will be exempt, but I believe that system is to be accompanied by an income tax. I have not gone thoroughly into the proposals now put forward in Tasmania, but I believe they include an income tax. It is intended to have a graduated tax from id. up to 2jd. in the £1, and, so far as I can gather, the new system will bring in a larger revenue to the State, and impose a heavier tax on each property in the State. Even allowing for the proposed exemption, I believe that each property in Tasmania, without exception, will have to pay more in land taxation under the proposed new graduated system than it previously had to pay.
– The honorable sena: tor is speaking now of a taxation proposal which has not yet become law.
-Colonel CAMERON.- That is so. Under the existing system of State taxation, the property to which I have referred pays ,£51 ns. 3d. on the total value of the estate, including improvements.
– The honorable senator has stated that land-owners will have to pay more taxation under the new system of land taxation proposed in Tasmania.
– Order ! Senator Cameron wishes to be heard without interjections.
– I am very much obliged to you, sir. I do not wish to waste the time of the Senate, but I may reply to Senator Ready by saying that I worked out the new taxation proposal in Tasmania, as it would apply to my own case, and I found that the effect of it will be to increase the amount I have to pay in taxation under the existing system by about 50 per cent. In addition to that, I understand that there is also to be an income tax imposed in Tasmania. I have said that the annual value of the estate to which I have referred is £070 The annual obligations, including the
Federal land tax, would amount to £662 16s. 3d., leaving only £7 3s. od. a year for the owner of the property.
– He is merely the nominal owner when there is such a heavy mortgage on the property.
.- That is perfectly correct. If the owner were working the property himself, he would have to procure more capital for the purpose. As the mortgage amounts to £12,500, the owner’s interest in the property is £4,000, and, in view of the obligations, it would be impossible for him to get a revenue of even £1 a week out of it.
– Is not the capital value stated a boom value?
– I do not intend to go into that matter. I am stating facts for the information of honorable senators. If Senator E. J. Russell wished to buy this property a few years ago he could not have secured it for less than the capital value I have stated. I intend to quote another case, and state, as the capital value, the amount that was actually paid for the property. Any one who contends that I am undervaluing these properties misstates the fact. The capital value of the second property to which I refer is £17,600. The annual value is £650. There is a mortgage of £14,000 on the property, on which £560 has to be paid annually in the shape of interest. In this case, the improvements are valued at £3,600, leaving the unimproved value of the estate at £14,000. That would make the taxable value of the estate, under this Bill, the same as in the other case, namely, £9,000, and the Federal land tax £48 15s. a year. The State taxation in this case amounts to £55. In this case, allowing for the deduction under the State law of one-sixth of id. in the £1, the annual outgoing would amount to £654. As the annual value is only £650, the proposed Federal land tax, added to interest and State taxation, would account for more than the annual value of the property.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the annual value of the estate is set .down very low ?
.- It is impossible to get more for the property. I wish to show the Senate and the country how unfairly in its incidence this tax will operate in the case of a State like Tasmania. I have heard it declared that the values of estates there are not fairly appraised. I say that they are, and I am citing instances in support of my contention.
– Capital values are really immaterial to the honorable senator’s argument. It is the annual value, upon which interest has to be paid, which he has to consider.
– That is 4 per cent, on the capital value.
– I admit that where there is good cover money ran be obtained at 4 per cent. But I have never secured it at that rate. I am paying 4J per cent, and 5 per cent.
– I was referring to the annual value, which is only 4 per cent, of the capital value.
.- I am taking into consideration the rental which is actually paid for these places. I know another property which is valued at £34,290, and from which the rents received amount to £1,540. There is a mortgage of £22,000 upon it, the interest payable upon which is £990 per annum. This estate is closely settled, inasmuch as there are ten farmers upon it. The improvements are valued at £6,290, so that its unimproved capital value is, approximately, £28,000. In other words, its taxable value under this Bill will be £22,000. The interest and taxes payable upon that property will be £1,284, so that its owner will receive only about £250 per annum for its upkeep.
– What size is the estate ?
.- It contains more than 5,500 acres and less than 6,000 acres, but I cannot give the exact figures.
– Its owner can escape taxation by subdividing the property, and allowing poor people to be settled upon it.
.- Poor people are already settled on it, and are doing very well. They are the small farmers whom the honorable senator’s party is endeavouring to ruin.
– Endeavouring to help.
.- The honorable senator will never give them any help. I have cited three typical instances in which the equity of redemption is already pledged up to the hilt, and I say that this Bill will destroy the chance of these owners ever recovering it. I would further point out that under this measure between £70,000 and .£100,000 annually will be collected from Tasmania alone. It is difficult to say precisely how much. But when we recollect that the Van Diemen’s Land Company alone will be called upon to pay more than £6,000 in the form of land tax, we can easily understand what a heavy impost it will be in the case of the State which I represent.
– Is that company an absentee company?
.- If it be an absentee company, it will pay a great deal more than the sum I have mentioned.
– Are all the big estates in Tasmania mortgaged ?
– A very great number of them are. I have in my pocket a letter, which I am not at liberty to read, from an owner of land there, who is an octogenarian, and who for years has struggled to pay off the mortgages on his holding. He informs me that within the next few years his estate must be broken up, because there are sixteen or seventeen persons interested in it; and that, as the result of the operation of this Bill, the women folk will receive very little from the division. That is the position of one of the large land-holders in Tasmania. I do not desire to mention his name, although my honorable friends opposite know very well the gentleman to whom I allude. If the land tax which it is proposed to collect from Tasmania was to be spent in that State, there would be less fault to fmd with the Bill. But it will be taken away from Tasmania-
– Hear, hear !
– I am quite sure that the honorable senator will take all that he can get. This vast revenue, which will exceed the amount which is already being collected from land tax by the State Government, will be spent outside of Tasmania. What will be” the effect of that? It is patent to everybody. One has only to walk through the streets of Launceston to-day to realize that business is at a stand-still. If ever a Bill was calculated to ruin Tasmania it is the measure which is now under ‘‘consideration.
– How does the honorable senator arrive at the conclusion that the money collected in that State will be spent outside of Tasmania?
.- At all’ events, that is my opinion. I. have endeavoured to place the position fairly be- fore the Senate ; and I do not think that my colleagues from Tasmania will disagree with my statement as to the probable result of the proposed tax. I have already emphasized the point that one class only is being asked to provide the revenue necessary for the purposes of defence - the class which holds the fee-simple of the land. Whether they are best able to stand this impost, is immaterial to me just now. I am not concerned with the cry that the Government will get at the other class later on. To single out one class for taxation is unworthy of any great political party,” and unworthy of any Government. It cannot be disputed that any man who has lawfully acquired property as the result of entering into a contract with the State, is entitled to retain it. This tax invades that inalienable right which every person under the British flag ought to possess. I have no hesitation in saying that the Bill seeks to give legislative sanction to an act ot plunder, pure and simple. The proposed tax is an outrage upon public decency, upon justice, and upon the honour of the Commonwealth.
.- I have listened attentively, and without interjecting save once, to the contribution of my honorable colleague to this debate. I need scarcely say that I disagree with most of the arguments which he has advanced. I hope that I shall discuss the Bill from a public stand-point, and without unnecessary warmth. This tax is in accordance with a principle which I advocated on the hustings previous to the 13th April last. It is in accordance with a principle which I was sent here to advocate on the floor of the Senate. I made no secret about the matter. I fought the campaign throughout, as did my colleagues, on the question of land reform, putting this in the forefront of my platform. We considered that in the interests of Tasmania, the question required solution at the hands of the Federal Parliament more than any other question. It has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition that the public did not quite understand this tax when we were on the hustings. I consider that the public clearly understood what was meant, and they gave us a mandate.
– I think they did understand what was meant.
– The honorable senator therefore has little cause of complaint on that score. We were pledged to propose this tax.
– I did not complain orb that ground.
– Senator Millen inferred that this tax imposed by the Federal Parliament would necessitate the States only taxing land up to ?5,000 in value. I told my constituents that such was not the case.
– I did not say that the States would not go beyond ?5,000.
– I stated clearly that the Federal tax was to be a super-tax, and’ I advocated it as such.
– There are members of the honorable senator’s party who said that there would not be any duplication in land’ taxation.
– That my view of the matter is well supported can be seenfrom a statement made by the Premier of Tasmania, Sir Elliot Lewis, in his Budget speech, as reported a few days ago. Hedealt with this very point, and said -
It lias been argued that, as the Federal land’ tax will only be imposed on properties of ?5,000- unimproved value and over, the State should’ not impose a tax upon such properties. This argument is based upon Section 109 of the Constitution, which provides that when a law of a. State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the former is, to the extent of the inconsistency, invalid. I do not think that tinsargument can prevail. When we accepted theConstitution we gave the Federal Parliament the widest power of taxation ; but it was never then expected that this power would be exercised except in cases of extreme necessity, such as, fortunately, have not yet arisen in Australia. It was at all times contemplated that the power of imposing direct taxation would be retained by the States, to enable them to carry out thelarge and important functions left in their hands.
Sir Elliot Lewis further said ; because the Federal Parliament has seen fit teenier the arena of State taxation and to superimpose a Federal land tax on top of the State land tax. it does not follow that the State should be deprived of its proper revenue from the samesource.
– That confirms what I said to-day, that between the two taxesthere would be nothing left for the landowner.
– On those lines a tax. has been proposed by die Tasmanian Parliament, as described by Senator Cameron. For the first time in that State it is now proposed to tax the unimproved value of land. This new tax is going to raise considerably more revenue than did the tax formerly imposed. The former tax realized ?59,000. The new tax on unimproved? values is going to raise £71,000. Instead of being a property tax, it is to be a land tax pure and simple.
– It is doubtful whether the tax will bring in anything like that amount of money, if it has the effect of bursting up the big estates.
– The tax starts at id. in the £1, and goes up to 2 1/2d.
– The revenue will disappear as the big estates are burst up.
– Perhaps so. But though some of the large land-holders and the land loafers will be compelled to pay more taxation, I do not think that the landusers will’ pay more. The extra money to be obtained from land taxation will not be obtained from the industrious man who uses his land, but from those who keep their land idle, or use it for purely pastoral purposes. Let me give an instance which I mentioned during my election campaign. A man who owns land next to a large estate paid on a value of ,£120 per acre. Only a fence divides his land from an estate which paid only on a value of £4 odd per acre. The industrious man had put an orchard of fruit and a crop oT hops upon his land, and was taxed to the extent of £120, whilst the land loafer on the other side of the fence paid only on £4 per acre. That occurred in Tasmania under the old system.
– Can the honorable senator name the estate?
– I am alluding to the Lawrenny estate, Hamilton, Tasmania. The man who paid on a value of £120 per acre was Mr. William Hills, of Hamilton. What we want to do, as I pointed out to the electors of Tasmania, is to tax the large land-holder in the same proportion as the small one. We contended that as the State Government had failed to do this, the task was left for the Federal. Parliament. In the past the big land-holders have escaped their just dues to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are now going to make up for lost time, and acquire some of the arrears. I am sorry that Senator Cameron, when speaking to-night, did not mention his own estate as an example, but as I have the figures relating to it I shall endeavour to supply the information.
– The honorable senator is quite at liberty to do that if he likes. I do not care to be personal at any time, and try to avoid mentioning my own affairs.
– I have no intention of being personal, and should be sorry to say anything in this chamber that could be so regarded. I am dealing with this matter solely from the point of view of public policy, and hope that I shall never approach any question in the Senate from any other point of view.
-Does the honorable senator propose to bring the private affairs of a member of this Senate into the debate?
– I am going to mention an instance. Senator Cameron has given a number of Tasmanian cases. I shall give one more.
– The honorable senator might have mentioned the facts without mentioning the name. We do not generally discuss one another’s private affairs hero.
– If I am doing anything wrong I shall be glad to be corrected, but I am not aware that I am saying anything that is contrary to the rules of the Senate.
– At the last election the Opposition party took photographs of some of our houses and exhibited them all over the country.
– We did not bring up the private affairs of our opponents in this Parliament.
– I have a lively recollection of seeing the pictures of which Senator Pearce refers, and which were circulated throughout the country. I do not intend to quote the figures relating to Senator Cameron’s estates from a personal point of view. I give them simply as an illustration. Surely I have a right to do that.
– It is purely a matter of taste.
– I find that the honorable senator’s properties in Tasmania are very large. In fact, I think that, according to the latest valuation, they comprise about £140,000 worth of land.
– I rise to order. I wish to ask whether the honorable senator is in order in alluding in debate to another honorable senator’s private affairs? What I understand the honorable senator proposes to do is to quote figures as to the possessions of another member of the Senate,- and to draw some conclusion from them. I wish to know whether he is in order in alluding to the private possessions and the private business of a member of the Senate. It is contemptible.
– Senator Ready appears to be dealing with a public matter, and if the figures which he proposes to supply are obtained from public documents I do not know of any rule which would prevent him from referring to them. I understand that it is a public matter with which he is dealing.
– As my name has been brought up, may I say that I am grateful to Senator Gould for haying spoken as he has done. But it is entirely a question of taste. In the circumstances, I shall leave Senator Ready to do as he pleases.
– I will now resume. 1 am referring to the owner of one of the seven largest estates in Tasmania.
– The honorable senator might have put the matter in that way in the first instance.
– I do not think that such fine points are worth straining about. I am sorry that honorable senators opposite have seen fit-
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Gould in order in calling the action of Senator Ready contemptible? I take it that honorable gentlemen on the other side are deliberately offensive to this side, and it is time that they were stopped.
– I did not understand Senator Gould to make any such statement. I understood him to say that if any one referred to his private business he would consider it a contemptible act.
– That is what I said.
– I do not intend to be personal in any way, or to say anything which would be ungentlemanly and of which I should be ashamed. But I claim the right to refer to any estate in Tasmania. As Senator Cameron gave one instance, I want to cite a particular estate, though not with any personal motives, and I do not intend to make any remark to which he can take the slightest exception. I trust that I shall not be further interrupted. This big estate has come prominently under my notice, because I have lived within striking distance of it, walked over it, and seen a good deal of it. I have not yet been caught trespassing upon it, and I hope that I never shall be. lt comprises a number of holdings which have been aggregated during a course of years. It includes the following holdings : - Fordon 6, 1 80 acres; York Park and Beverley, 5,090 acres; Barton, 3,940 acres; New Plains, 2,600 acres; Glen Morrison, 4,372 acres; agricultural area on Fordon, 151 acres; Winnburn. 1,350 acres; house and land on Fordon, 37 acres; Camperdown, 862 acres; Upper Camperdown, 2,085 acres ; Kingston, 1,241 acres; Camperdown, 338 acres; Hampden, 7,310 acres; Camperdown, 189, and 73 acres; and Kingston, 5,528 acres, making a total area of 42,696 acres, owned by the one person. According to the roll for 1908, the capital value was £120,000, and the average assessment £2 16s. 4d. per acre. Since then the assessment has gone up materially, and is now, I think, in the neighbourhood of £140,000, whilst the improved value, I think, will be about £100,000. I always feel sorry when Senator Cameron deals with defence, because when such fine estates as this one are carrying so few persons, I think it comes with ill grace from him to lay stress upon the necessity for defending Australia. I think that if he employs twenty-two men on the total area of 42,696 acres, from the point of view of defence, this is regrettable.
-Colonel Cameron. - May I ask where the honorable senator got his information from?
– I got my information from a reliable authority.
– Then let me tell the honorable senator that his reliable authority is absolutely unreliable. I deny that the figures are accurate.
– I trust that I made myself clear on this point. I referred to the number of men employed permanently on the estate.
– If the honorable senator will inquire again, he will find that he is wrong.
– I am absolutely convinced that the estate does not carry thirty men permanently.
.- Will the honorable senator apologize to the Senate if he finds that it does carry thirty men ?
– If it carries thirty families permanently.
– No; if it carries thirty men. The honorable senator did not say thirty families, but thirty permanent working men
– I shall apologize to the Senate if there are more than thirty men employed permanently on the estate.
– But if there are thirty ?
– I do not wish to split straws over the matter. When I say that twenty-live years ago about thirty farmers with their families lived on the holdings comprised in this big estate, T trust that no honorable senator will contradict my statement. I consulted one of the most accurate informants whom I could find in the whole district. He told me that twentyfive years ago these Holdings carried thirtyfive families, and that much of the land is suitable for agriculture. I believe that any judge of farming or agricultural land in the district will confirm his statement. I understand that not more than 600 or 700 acres a year are farmed.
– The honorable senator is giving my place a good advertisement ; but I shall put the position accurately by saying that it contains. 4,000 acres of good agricultural land, the rest being a sheep walk. If the honorable senator can sell it for me as agricultural land, I give him carte blanche to do so. I cannot be fairer than that. That is a sporting offer, sir.
– Order ! The honorable senator asked to be heard in silence, and I invite him to extend like consideration to Senator Ready.
– I beg pardon, sir. The honorable senator was attacking me personally, and that is why I interrupted.
– I am not attacking the honorable senator personally, but the system of land monopoly in Tasmania, citing this big estate as an instance of it. When the honorable senator asks for a cheap advertisement for his land, this is beside the question. Mr. Hogg has property situated in about the centre of this large estate. Last season his crop averaged 38 bushels of wheat to the acre and 45 bushels of oats to the acre. Mr. R. Fisher has a holding light in the centre of this large estate, and as he happens to be a family connexion, I can speak authoritatively. Last year he obtained 20 bushels of wheat per acre from 75 acres; 40 bushels of oats per acre from 12 acres; 2 tons of hay per acre from 30 acres ; and 30 bushels of peas per acre from 12 acres. Out of his area of 330 acres he cultivates from 130 to 150 acres, and carries a large number of sheep besides.
Although he is paying a rack-rent for that small holding, he is making it pay.
– Who is his landlord?
– His own cousin.
– That does not enter into the question. Senator Cameron’s estate is typical of many estates in Tasmania. If it were broken up, as I trust it will be after the land tax is imposed, it would support a very fine population, and then I am sure that Nile, a small township in the centre, would be a better place to live in. 1 admit that the land tax will be a very heavy impost. I find that the land tax on this large estate will come to about £1,500 for the Commonwealth and £600 or ,£700 for the State - that is £2,000 odd a year. The owner of a large estate like that should pay a land tax or allow some one else to use the land to better advantage. The land question is one of the greatest questions which the Labour party has had to face. The more history is studied the more it is found that the decline of any great nation has been attributable to the fact that either the wealth or the land had got into a few hands. When Babylon fell 2 per cent, of the people owned practically the whole of the wealth. It was the same in Egypt. In Persia 1 per cent, of the population owned practically all the land. When Rome went down 1,800 persons owned practically the known world.
When William the Conqueror took possession of England the land was distributed among his nobles, and the obligation which he imposed upon the nobles and overlords was not only to pay tax or tribute, but also to defend the country. They had to raise a certain number of archers and men-at-arms for service in the cause of their liege lord, as well as to pay tribute. Tracing English history up to the Middle Ages, we find that whilst land taxation continued the influence of the money-lenders came into play to a great extent. That necessitated the land-owners mortgaging their lands, and eventually the mortgagees got control of them. A few centuries ago the principle of land-owners raising troops for defence was done away with, and largely through the influence of the money-lenders. Coming to recent times, 1 have to deal with a delicate subject, and I hope that no one will accuse me of introducing personalities. As regards the manner in which land was acquired in Australia, we find some interesting information in the Commonwealth Year-Book. It is known to honorable senators that a good many million acres of land were acquired by that wretched system of free grants, which, I may remark, has been responsible for a great part of the land monopoly obtaining to-day. According to Knibbi -
The first instructions, issued on the 25th April, 1787, authorized the Governor to make grants only to liberated prisoners, but by further instructions issued by the Secretary of State in 1789, the privilege of obtaining grants was extended to free immigrants, and to such of the men belonging to the detachment of marines serving in New South Wales - which then included the whole of the eastern part of Australia - as were desirous of settling in the colony ; the maximum grant was not to exceed 100 acres, and was subject to a quit-rent of1s. per annum for every fifty acres, to be paid within five years of the date of issue.
Land sales were not introduced until 1825, and free grants were abolished in 1831. In Tasmania the same regulations were carried out until 1825, when it became a separate Colony -
In 1828 the first land sales in the island took place, but so low were the prices obtained that 70,000 acres enriched the Treasury by only £20,000. In the month of January, 1831, the system of issuing free grants of land was abolished.
It was not until 1831 that free grants were abolished.
– Has the honorable senator any figures to show the area covered by free grants issued in New South Wales ?
– I have not. But I have the figures for Tasmania.
-Colonel Cameron. - Surely free grants were issued in small areas much later than 1831 ?
– They are being issued to-day in Western Australia.
-Colonel Cameron. - Up to 1860 I know that old soldiers were given grants of 100 acres.
– Honorable senators who know anything of Tasmania must be aware that there were very great abuses in that State in the early days under the system of free grants. I have no doubt that they have heard of the “ Scotch Thousand.” In the early days, if a man could show that he was possessed of £1,000, he was entitled to receive so many acres of land free. One member of a family would give proof that he possessed £1,000, and would get so many thousand acres of land free. Then he passed the money on to another, who hanked it, and on exhibiting his bank-book also received a free grant of land. I am told that many thousands of acres of land were given to the people in that way. From a return tabled by order of the House of Assembly in Tasmania, I find that up to and including the year 1864 no less than 2,098,763 acres were given away in Tasmania. At the present time, out of a total area of 16,000,000, 6,500,000 have been sold or are held under lease. I ask honorable senators to note that one-third of the lands alienated in Tasmania were given away. James Fenton, who, it will be admitted, was not a political partizan, says in his history of Tasmania -
This system of free grants had a most pernicious influence on the progress of the Colony. It fostered the growth of large pastoral estates and discouraged the settlement of an industrious class of immigrants upon the soil to an extent which no subsequent measures could counteract, the grass-covered hills and open plains being closed to the agriculturist. To this cause may be ascribed almost the entire rural- suppression of immigration.
The genesis of the big estate was the free grant system. It is impossible for us to reconstruct our land laws, and until we get a better land system it will be impossible to remedy the evils of land monopoly. If we consider the Biblical system of land tenure we shall find that the system established by Moses, the great prophet of the Jews, was infinitely better in the interests of the people as a whole than our existing system. That grand old prophet Moses held before his people the grand ideal of a free people in a free land. He preached equal rights to the soil, and he based a system of agrarian and industrial justice upon a sabbatical series of years. Every seven years was a sabbatical year, and the year following each cycle of such years, covering a period of forty-nine years, was known as the year of jubilee. In the year of jubilee, all land acquired by purchase or other means reverted to the original owner. A man holding land at the time of Moses could not sell it for more than the period of years elapsing between the date of sale and the next jubilee year.
– And what happened to the Jewish nation ?
– What happened to the Jewish nation was not the result of land monopoly, but was due to another cause altogether.
– The Almighty gave them a king as a punishment for their wickedness. That is what happened to them.
– I am sorry that Senator Millen has not read his Bible to better purpose.
– I have read, sufficient of it to know that the honorable senator is misrepresenting its obvious lesson.
– No; I think the Biblical system of land tenure was one which might be adopted in the Commonwealth to-day with advantage. I refer honorable senators to the system in operation in China, which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. China has a population of 400,000,000. There are no large estates in China, for the simple reason that they have a system of hereditary family tenure, under which no man is permitted to will away the whole of his property. He is at liberty to will away only so much of it as would be represented by one part if it were divided into a number of parts equal to the number of his children. Consequently, every young man in China knows that when he comes of age there will be a certain area of land available for him ; and it is by this means that China is able to support her enormous population. We find that the most prosperous nations are those which have good land laws. This is one of the reasons why the Federal Labour party are hastening to bring about a better system of land tenure in Australia. I take the case of Denmark, which is one of the most densely-populated countries of Europe. A British-Australian who visited that country a little time ago went very carefully into its land laws ; and I quote the following as the result of his inquiries -
Small holdings, education, co-operation, and untaxed grain and cake for feeding stock have combined to make the Danish countryside produce a maximum of wealth. The soil is far less fertile than that of England ; there are millions of acres of Australian soil infinitely more fertile lying virtually derelict to-day. But the land is tilled as a garden, and, despite its poor quality and climatic disadvantages, a wonderfully high level of comfort has been arrived at.I found the peasant with his three acres and three cows possessed of such a homestead as will not be found on many Australian farms of hundreds of acres. The peasant with fifty acres T found with a home that many a squatter would envy. What in Denmark inspires great hopes for the future is the fact that the peasant, the tiller of the soil, the owner of from three to 100 acres, is the man who leads in all things, and who has made this small nation the most prosperous and enlightened in Europe. And be it remembered that the ancestors of these men a little more than 100 years ago were bondsmen, the serfs of the lords of the manors.
At the outset, it may be emphatically stated that the peasants have worked out their own salvation, and have asked and obtained little or nothing from Governments. When the peasants were freed from feudal bondage at the beginning of last century they were animated with the desire to possess their own holdings, and the great proprietors were not averse to sell, to which fact the heavy land tax imposed in the forties no doubt contributed. To-day the 9,310,000 acres of Denmark are divided into 260,000 properties, of which 114,079 are below 6¼ acres in extent. If by making land available so great a change can be wrought in so short a time as that which separates the Danish peasant of to-day from the serf of a century ago, what a wondrous change this century is to witness in Australia as the landless men are settled on the manless acres.
I take the following from the Year-Book of New Zealand -
The average size of holdings above 10,000 acres in New Zealand declined during the period stated as follows : -
That will give some idea of the great de cline in the number of large estates since the imposition of the New Zealand land tax. This further statement is made -
It would appear from the above that there has been a reduction in the total held in areas of 10,000 and over of 2,797,658 acres during the period 1889-1906. Purchases by Government contributed to this result, but only to the extent of about one-third, voluntary subdivision accounting for the balance. The average held by owners of 10,000 acres and upwards shows a steady decrease since 1889.
It will be admitted, from these figures, that the land tax in New Zealand has had a remarkable result. If honorable senators require further evidence on the subject,I refer them to the statement made only the other day in Sydney, to a representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, by Mr. George Fowlds, the Minister of Education in New Zealand. He said -
In my opinion, the tax on unimproved land values and the municipal land tax have been very important factors in the steady prosperity of New Zealand for a great many years past. We have a tax as high as 6d. in the £1 on large estates, and it exercises a steady influence in preventing land speculation, because, to some extent, it takes the large holders out of competition, since with each few thousand pounds they add to their properties the rate for the whole is increased. Then there is a stiff absentee tax on top of that. I don’t know how far it has reduced the absentee holding, but I believe it has had a substantial effect in that direction. It will absolutely prevent the growing up of an absentee land-owning class.
We have heard a good deal as to the disaster which will follow the imposition of the proposed Federal land tax. We are told that it represents confiscation and robbery, and one honorable senator has to-day gone so far as to say that it means plunder. We are invited to believe that it will ruin people, that it will crush the small man, and will throw people out of employment. It will not throw many out of employment on the big estates of Australia. I think there are only about 2,000 permanently employed by the pastoral industry in Tasmania ; and if they were all thrown out of work at once, the effect would not be very serious.
– They only get about £30 a year each.
– As my honorable friend reminds me, the wages they receive are very low. In reply to the statement about confiscation and plunder, I quote the remarks of Mr. David Barclay, the manager of the Commercial Bank of Tasmania, at the last meeting of the shareholders of the bank. He was asked, by ex-Senator Dobson, whether the proposed Federal land tax would not result in a great depreciation of the dividends paid by the bank, which 1 believe is one of the best-managed banking institutions in Tasmania. This was Mr. Barclay’s reply -
We do not need to worry about the new tax; neither the Commonwealth notes nor the land tax will, I think, prevent us paying the same dividend in the future as we are doing to-day.
It is evident, therefore, that the banks will continue to pay the same dividends that they have hitherto paid.
– Why should not they do so?
– But my honorable friends have been picturing the desolation which will fall upon the land as the result of this tax. After all, bank dividends are a very fair index to the prosperity of the country. In speaking at a meeting of the Squatting Investment Company, Senator Fraser is reported to have said-
– That is a company which the Labour party were careful not to tax under this Bill.
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that if the Labour party finds it necessary to tax that company, it will face its obligations courageously.
– The Government proposed to tax other persons courageously, but they courageously dropped their proposal.
– I do not think we have displayed any lack of courage. Senator Fraser, in addressing a meeting of the Squatting Investment Company, said - lt was to be hoped that Parliament would have too much common-sense and honesty to do such a deliberate and gross injustice to a section of the people as was proposed by the Government.
But we have sufficient courage to stick to our guns, notwithstanding that dire pronouncement.
– Do I understand that the honorable senator is quoting from a newspaper, remarks made by another honorable senator in regard to the Bill which is now under consideration?
– Yes. Quite a number of petitions have been presented to the Senate protesting against the imposition of the proposed tax, with a view to creating the impression that a great agitation has been raised against it. But those petitions have usually borne only about half-a-dozen signatures, so that the section which is endeavouring to create so much fuss is only a small one.
– Because it is a small section the Government are going to make it pay?
-And because its members are not supporters of the Labour party.
– Some of diem are supporters of our party. I know of one large land-owner in Tasmania who is possessed of considerably more than £5,000 worth of unimproved land values, and who is a very warm supporter of the Labour party. A friend of mine, writing from Ellendale, says -
A petition is being taken round to the people here protesting against the Federal land tax. Some one must be doing a bit of “ leg-pulling,” as there is not one farmer who has ground to the value of £5,000 in Ellendale, and the small piece of ground that is owned by the farmers here has to be cultivated for all it is worth for the owners to make a bare living. It is a case of getting all the names they can, and many would sign without understanding thoroughly what they were signing for.
I come now to the question which has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with municipal or shire councils. He dealt with the ability of shire and municipal councils to tax land effectively.
Now one of the greatest complaints heard in Tasmania is that the municipalities there have not assessed land effectively. During my election campaign I drew attention to very gross cases of under-valuation, cases in which estates worth £7 or £8 per acre had been valued as low as £3 and £4 per acre. Go where one may in Tasmania he will find instances of under-valuation, not in connexion with small but with large holdings. Senator O’Keefe can confirm my statement. Quite recently a revaluation was made of the whole of the lands of Tasmania upon an unimproved and improved basis. If we take the chief pastoral portions of the State, we shall find some striking figures in reference to undervaluations.
– Has the honorable senator the new assessment?
– I have portions of it relating to the pastoral areas of Tasmania, and I hope to be able to show that in the past the large land-holders have escaped taxation owing to faulty administration. For instance, in the district of Bruny, the old assessment was £45,200, whereas the new assessment is £68,079. I” Brighton, the capital value of the lands was set down last year at ,£419,868, but the recent valuation is £472,573. In the Ellendale district, last year’s capital value of the lands was ,£700,346, whereas the new valuation is ,£748,618. In Georgetown, last year’s valuation was £104,584, whereas the new valuation is ,£1 12,295. i-n Glenorchy last year’s valuation was £475,503, and the new valuation is £645,970. Similarly in the district of Green Ponds, last year’s valuation was £229,695, whereas the new valuation is £258,783. In Glamorgan, the valuation last year was £133,928, whereas this year it is £153,561. In Launceston, the valuation made last year was £2,930,389, whereas the new valuation is
– What interval elapsed between the two valuations?
– There was practically no interval, because in Tasmania the valuations are made yearly by the local authority.
– I think that the increase in the valuation in the Ellendale district is a little misleading, because there has been a big alteration in that area.
– There are districts in New South Wales in which there has been a difference of 50 per cent, in the value of land during the past few years.
– I am quite aware of that, but the cases which I am citing evidence bad administration - administration in the interests of one class. In the Lillydale district, the valuation last year was £293,359, whereas the new valuation is £362,136. In the Newtown district, the valuation last year was £483,160, whereas this year it is £562,391. In Portland, the valuation last year was .£83,049, but this year it is £100,101. In Richmond, the valuation last year was £309,868, whereas this year it is £336,370. In the Sorrel district last year’s valuation was £349, 846, whereas the new valuation is £351,790. So that in all the pastoral districts of Tasmania, marked increases have occurred under the new .valuation. For years past these large estates have enjoyed such a good innings that if we could only exact from them what they owe to the State the amount would run into four or five figures. During the course of his remarks. Senator Cameron challenged the accuracy of a statement regarding the position of affairs which obtains in Tasmania. I therefore propose to embody it in Hansard. In Tasmania, there are 416 persons who own mole than half as much land as do 16,279 persons.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain his figures?
– From Tasmanian official sources.
– We have asked for them, and have been told that we could not get them.
– The figures which I am quoting are official.
– They relate to improved, and not to unimproved land values.
– Of the 416 persons who will pay the land tax in Tasmania, 335 own land of an unimproved value of £2,684,397, and 83, or J per cent., own land of an unimproved value of £2,630:346. There are 16,279 estates valued at under £5,000. These represent an unimproved value to the extent of £9,247,257.. Then there are 418 estates of more than £5,000 unimproved value, and these aggregate a value of .£5,314,743- There are 63 estates ranging in value from £15,000 to £30,000, 7 ranging in value from £30,000 to .£.50,000, an equal number ranging in value from £50,000 to £80,000, and 6 exceeding a value of £80,000. The Tasmanian Government, in its latest schedule of public works, proposes an expenditure of £[440,000, including £[128,000, which is to be spent upon roads in newly settled districts. These roads will add considerably to the value of the lands of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government propose to construct these public works, and they have also the good sense to tax land upon its unimproved basis, altogether apart from the Federal impost. There is just another matter with which I should like to deal before I conclude my remarks. That is a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition with reference to the proposals of the Labour party to raise revenue from land taxation. He maintained, as I judge, that the proposal of this party was to obtain more and more revenue every year from land taxation. I should like to show that the amount of money raised in the Commonwealth from land taxation has been a decreasing, instead of an increasing, quantity. The total amount of land taxation in the Commonwealth in 1901-2 was £522,721., or 3s. 9d. per head. The amount in 1908-9 was £351,282, or is. 7$d. per head. In New Zealand, however, the land taxation in 1901-2 was £312,835, or 7s. nd. per head, whereas in 1908-9 the land taxation in New Zealand was £604,901, or 12s. ;d. per head. The total taxation of the Commonwealth in 1901-2 was £11,540,964, or £3 os. 6d. per head, whilst in 1908-9 the total taxation was £14,356,422, or £3 7s. 2d. per head. In New Zealand the total taxation in 1901-2 was £3,”3.-°79> °r £3 I9S- 7<3. per head, whilst in 1908-9 it was £4,377,761, or £4 us. 2d. per head. Whilst, therefore, the amount of revenue raised from land taxation in the Commonwealth has decreased, the total raised from other sources of revenue has increased. We intend to make up some leeway by the taxation of land values on an unimproved basis, this policy being justifiable, not only from the revenue point of view, but also from the point of view of the interests of the Commonwealth at large. It will be interesting to quote a short statement made some time ago by the Right Honorable Alexander Ure, K.C., M.P., Lord Advocate of Scotland, in which he summarized six reasons for taxing land values, in the following fashion -
– Where did the honorable senator get the quotation from?
– From a speech delivered in the other House.
– It is a wonderful thing that a Lord Advocate of Scotland should utter such stuff.
– Was he addressing ar» infant class?
– The supporters of the policy justified by “ such stuff “ seem to be increasing in this country, as witness the results of die elections on 13th April. The people recognise that the prosperity of this country depends on free access being secured to the lands. I think that Herbert Spencer, in his Social Statics - I forget the page - said - “ Every man has equal freedom to do whatever he will, provided he does not infringe the equal freedom of his fellow-man.”
– Provided he is not a member of the Labour party 1
– We do not take so narrow a view as the honorable senator does. We say that every man has equal rights before the law, and should have equal rights in respect to land. We wish as far as possible to break up the land monopoly, which has resulted in the fact that this great country contains only four and a-half millions of people, and which has kept my State in a condition of stagnation for over twenty years. Tasmania should be the most prominent and thriving State, in proportion to size, in the whole Commonwealth. We have God’s own. country, but we have had the devil’s own legislation in the past. We are now looking to the Federal Parliament for relief, and I am glad to say that the people will not look to us in vain. Already there is a movement in the direction of subdivision in Tasmania. Some of our finest estates are being broken up for closer settlement. I believe that the estate of the honorable senator who has now left the chamber will before long be made available to the people in a manner which will not embarrass the Government. It is well known that the State Governments have re-purchased £4,500,000 worth of land. That is a policy to which the Labour party cannot subscribe as a cure for the present land evil. We believe that the better system is to impose taxation on the large estates, to discourage the non-use and misuse of land, and to encourage the settlement of a rural population. By that means Australia will make progress, and my State will attain the position to which she is entitled. Ours is a policy that will result, in my opinion, in Labour administration being maintained for many years to come.
– The Senate is supposed to be the States House of Australia. We are supposed, therefore, to point out where we believe the Constitution has been broken or impinged upon. At an earlier hour in the evening Senator Cameron, when speaking on this subject, made some remarks which I hoped would draw a reply from Senator Stewart. I looked forward to a conflict between the representatives of those two great clans, the Camerons and the Stewarts, and am rather disappointed that Senator Stewart was not present to take tip the cudgels on behalf of the policy which he has so often advocated. Probably there never has been a Bill before the Federal Parliament which has caused greater perturbation in the community than this one. lt may be denned as a conglomeration of inequities. It is questionable whether in some of its provisions the Constitution has not been broken. We are supposed to be a Federation, but those who established the Commonwealth never expected that within so short a time the principles of Federation would be so seriously infringed. We hear a good deal about the so-called mandate from the electors, but I point out that the amount of taxation foreshadowed by Mr. Fisher when he secured that mandate has been exceeded by 50 per cent. Mr. Fisher, in his speech at Gympie, led the country to understand that the maximum tax would be 4d. in the £1 on the unimproved value of land.
– I was with him, and he did nothing of the kind.
– We can only go by the reports of his speech.
– He did not say that 4d. was to be the maximum.
– I speak subject to correction, but am stating what appeared in the newspaper reports.
– The principle is the same whether the maximum be 4d. or fid.
– I propose to say a few words regarding the inequities of this Bill. First, there is the arbitrary distinction between two classes of the community. That section of the community the members of which do not happen to own land of an unimproved value exceeding £5,000, are to get off scot free, whilst those who through their industry and ability have managed to get into a somewhat better position are now to be handicapped in this manner. I maintain that that is a breach of the spirit of the Constitution at the very least. Another inequity arises in respect to what is called the absentee tax. Absentee companies and individuals are alike to be penalized.
– The honorable senator is the first friend of the absentee to speak in the Senate.
– All of us who come from the Old Country were absentees at one time, and surely it is an advantage to Australia to receive immigration. Another unfair feature of the Bill is that which makes mortgagors pay upon the unimproved value of their property which ismortgaged sometimes to the extent of 6oper cent., and in some cases higher. That is surely very inequitable. There are casesin which this tax will make a great difference in the value of the equity of redemption, and many persons will find that their income has been reduced by 60 per cent.
– I call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum, formed.]
– Another inequity,, in my opinion, is the exemption of all ‘ Crown lessees. That is a most extraordinary proposal. I admit that the Federal Government have not power to tax. them, but that is another argument why this should be a State and not a Federal tax. In clause 67 there is a very objectionable provision. That clause reads asfollows: - (1.) Any person who, with intent to defraud,, in any return understates the unimproved value of any land, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds and an amount: equal to treble the amount of the tax which would have been evaded if the value stated in the return had been accepted as the’ unimproved value of the land ; or forfeiture of the land undervalued or any part thereof.
Then comes the objectionable part - (2.) Where the value stated in the return is* less’, by twenty-five per centum or more, than* the value as found by the jury, the value shall’, be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to have been understated with intent to defraud.
It is contrary to the British idea of fair play, that you must hold a man to be guilty and must take it for granted that he is guilty until he proves that be is innocent.
– There are scores of instances to the contrary.
– I am aware that under the Customs Act the onus of proof is placed upon an accused person, but I have always protested against that as unBritish. I am sure that the honorable senator is one of those who, in private life, would not like to be considered guilty until he was found to be guilty.
– There are scores of examples in British law itself.
– Relative to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution being broken, section 51 reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Common, wealth with respect to : - (ii.) Taxation; but not so as to discriminate between States or parts of States.
I believe that most Democrats - and I suppose that we have a great many here - admit that the most important part of a State is its population, not merely its land. It is not, therefore, unreasonable to argue that if one part of a State is not to be differentiated from another part of it, and its population may be legitimately considered the most important part of the State’s entity, one section should not be treated differently from another. That, I think, is an irrefutable argument. In this measure honorable senators on the other side are distinguishing between one part of a State and another when they provide that one section of its people shall be treated differently from another section.
– Why should we make the merchants pay the Customs duties ?
– My honorable friend knows quite well that Customs taxation is ultimately paid by the consumer. That the Bill is a distinct step towards Unification is quite self-evident. The ownership of land is essentially a State matter, but if the Commonwealth can control land taxation in an arbitrary manner, as I maintain it is doing in this measure, where comes in the sovereignty of the States? In the Constitution it is provided that in the Senate each State, large or small, shall have exactly the same representation, because its trainers wanted to maintain the sovereignty of the States in their ambit. But in this Bill you are not doing so.
– We cannot have two sovereign powers.
– In this Bill you are interfering with the sovereignty of the States. I propose to refer to the so-called mandate of the people. The mandate”, I understand, was to impose a land tax of 4d. in the jQi, but it has been fixed at 6d., except in the case of absentees, who are called upon to pay 7d. Let us see who gave the mandate. If you charge a tax of 6d. in the ; £r, at 5 per cent, you are practically taking away one-half of the capital value of the property.
– We are leaving the other half to which they have no right.
– That is a mere assertion; it is not a truth. I wish to draw attention to the mandate to show what the differences in the votes between the two parties were in regard to the Senate and the other House. The eighteen senators who were returned at the last election - and certainly that is very unique in the history of politics - received 2,021,090 votes>, whilst the other candidates received 1,997,029 votes, getting no representation. In other words, Labour had a majority of r>nly 24,061 votes. As every elector had three votes really, in individuals, only 8,020 more persons voted for the eighteen successful senators than those who voted for the rest of the candidates. With regard to the other House the figures are just the other way. The votes cast for Labour aggregated 686,842, as against 689,104, so that it was in a minority of 2,262 votes. The mandate of the people, therefore, in that regard was against this measure. Having given a taste of what I may call destructive criticism, I propose to make a suggestion in the other direction. It is easy to find fault and pull down, but not so easy to build up. Let us see if a much more equitable system could not be adopted, and one which would be less arbitrary in its incidence, and by which the Commonwealth would get the amount which it professes its wish to get, namely, ^7,000,000. There is a general impression that, so far from obtaining that amount, thev will get something like ^£2. 500.000! Presuming the population of Australia to be 4,500,000, a revenue of -£1,000.000 from this source would represent about 4s. 6d. per head. We have undertaken to give back to the States 25s. per head from the Customs and Excise revenue. Would it not be better to arrange with the States by an agreement that, in lieu of the land tax, we should take 4s. 6d. out of that 25s., giving us £1,000,000 ; and let them please themselves as to what their own land tax should be?
– No; that would not burst up the land monopoly.
– Surely the honorable senator will admit that the States are the proper authorities to take any steps to break up any so-called monopoly in land.
– They will not do it. The Upper Houses object.
– The banks will not permit them to do it.
– A contribution of 4s. 6d. per head from a population of 4,500,000 would come to £1,012,500. By that process, you would save all this perturbation which has been engendered by a sense of unfair treatment. Surely the population at large would like to see a measure passed which could be defended on principles of fair play. I make my honorable friends a present of that suggestion. The States would probably be very happy to meet us and let us take 4s. 6d. out of their 25s. per head, and if we should require more in subsequent years, let us have still more. By this means, every person would pay in the same way towards the revenue. I dare say that a large number of persons who have not £5,000 worth of land would not see the matter in that light. Surely those who have, through their enterprise, gained a position of comparative independence, are the best stamp of colonists whom Australia can have?
– That description would apply to -a burglar.
– I have heard the honorable senator make that allusion before. Surely he will not say that persons who work hard day and night, and pay 20s. in the £1, are to be looked upon as burglars?
– No; but your description would apply.
– It was never intended, when we accepted the Constitution, that the jurisdiction of the States should be interfered with in certain matters. Section 51 enumerates thirty-nine matters which belong to the Federation, including defence,
Customs duties, currency, old-age pensions, marriage, immigration, quarantine, and External Affairs. In all other respects, the powers of the States, failing an amendment of the Consitution, ‘ were to remain as they had been. Each State was to have control of its land, railways, education, public works, police force, &c. If my honorable friends take away -these powers one by one, what will remain but Unification? They will take away the right to tax land, one of the most important rights which the States have. If more direct taxation is needed, why not impose an income tax? Unfortunately, many a man has a large property; but, owing to droughts, floods, and labour troubles, his income is often a minus quantity. I likethe principle of an income tax. It is an honest tax which a man with an income can afford to pay. The land tax will injure me much less than would an income tax. Now, is the land tax going to have the effect of subdividing estates? I do not believe that it will. la a Sydney newspaper, I read a letter in which Mr. Horsfall pointed out that the first effect no doubt would be to reduce land values, that so many properties would b*: sold at less than their ordinary value, and that those that were fairly well to do would have a chance to buy them for much less than they otherwise could do. So that in a sense, in place of cutting up estates, the land tax may ultimately have the effect of increasing the size of many estates. Under the Constitution, we cannot differentiate between town and country lands. I propose to give one or two instances to show the unfairness of this tax with regard to town properties. All these inequalities go to prove that this is a matter for the State Parliaments and not for the Commonwealth Parliament. I have said that before, but it cannot be repeated too often. Every instance of an inequality in the incidence of the tax is an argument in support of the contention that it should be left to the State Parliaments.
– To the State Legislative Councils.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to say that, but I remind him that in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria the State Legislative Councils are elective bodies. In the case of city land, it will be impossible in many cases to say what more can be done in the way of improvements. We have ample proof of that in the city properties of Melbourne and Sydney.
– We are not going to tax the improvements.
– The Government propose to tax the unimproved value of city, as well as of country, land. They profess that their object is to secure the subdivision of large properties. Large pro.perties in our cities cannot be subdivided, and this is a still further argument for leaving this matter to the State Parliaments. I direct the attention of honorable senators to an example: At the corner of Collins and Elizabeth streets, in Melbourne, the Equitable Insurance Company of New York have a property for which they paid £2,000 a foot for the Collinsstreet frontage.
– Who made the land worth that price?
– The company has been largely instrumental, by the expenditure of their own money, in increasing the value of surrounding properties. In Sydney, the same society bought land at the corner of George-street and Chisholm-lane, and paid ,£1,500 a foot for the Georgestreet frontage of the land. The society has spent on these two properties between £350, 000 and £400,000 in buildings. How are these properties to be subdivided ?
– We do not wish to subdivide them.
– My honorable friends have proposed a graduated land tax with the object of securing the subdivision of property, but their proposal to apply it to city as well as to country properties is absolute folly. The Equitable Insurance Company of New York is a foreign company, and consequently must pay a higher rate than if it were an Australian company. Surely the effect of such legislation must be to prevent capital coming into the country, and to induce many persons possessing capital to clear out of it.
– How much capital did the Equitable Society of New York bring into the country?
– One reason why they have put up these great buildings is that under their constitution they are not at liberty to invest money out of the United States except upon the erection of business premises, and, further, they wished those who assured with them in Australia to know that they had some property in this country. That is a remark able instance of the unfairness of this socalled graduated land tax. This society has been instrumental in enhancing, by its very large expenditure, the value of the land in the neighbourhood of its properties. It is all nonsense to suppose that the whole of the increment on the value of land is due to population. A great deal is due to the expenditure of money in its neighbourhood.
– Public money to a large extent.
– Not necessarily. The honorable senator does not suppose that the Equitable Society of New York spent public money on their buildings?
– No; but the city corporations of Sydney and Melbourne have spent a lot of money in the neighbourhood of their buildings.
– I am one of those benighted individuals who believe that a land tax ought to be a local tax. Where that is so, those who pay the taxation have some say in the spending of the money on roads, bridges, and other improvements in the district in which they live. Under this Bill it is proposed that a comparative minority shall provide revenue by taxation which is to be spent for the benefit of others.
– No; for the defence of their own property.
– Not more than £1,000,000 will be required for defence, and what do the Government propose to do with the other £1,500,000 which will be derived from this taxation? I am satisfied that they will not return it to the people who will be called upon to pay it. I come now to deal with another portion of this Bil], which I regard as absolutely monstrous. It is proposed that people shall be asked to value their own properties. Can honorable senators imagine anything more unfair? Every man has a sentimental feeling for the property which he calls his home, and this Bill proposes to induce a man to over-value his property in order that he may secure his own home. Honorable senators opposite profess to desire to see people settled down in Australia, and they submit legislation which is calculated to make people disgusted with Australia. A man is asked to assess the value of his own property, and when he does so some person who may have a grudge against him will be in a position to cause him to suffer. I submit that a better plan to adopt would be to accept the local assessment of properties, even though it should be considered necessary to add from ro up to 25 per cent, to the local valuation, rather than permit an unfortunate man to be subjected to a penalty because, in the opinion of some other persons, he may have under-valued his property. It is a very important matter to consider what is really the market value of a property. It is generally- assumed that the true market value of a property is what it would bring at public auction, but the more modern definition differs from that. A has a property.- An adjoining property, owned by B, is put up for sale. It is of greater value to A than to any one else because its acquisition would enlarge his property and enable him to work it more economically. C bids a considerable sum at auction for B’s property. A makes a higher bid and secures the property. What is its market value? It is not the price whicli A has paid for it, because he had a special reason for buying it. The modern definition of the market value of that property is half-way between the offers made for it by A and-C.
– The market value is the reserve price put on it by the seller.
– No. I have known many cases in which the seller has put on his property a reserve lower than what he hoped to get for it. I could mention one or two amusing instances of this kind in connexion with the sale of an entire horse. Under this measure it is proposed to permit three men to decide whether, in hard cases, the Government should not forego the tax. I think that these three persons should be appointed a Court and cai led “upon to report to the Minister. It is possible that such a thing as backstairs influence might be exercised ; and it would, in my opinion, be far better if these three persons were called upon to report to the Executive Council, and the Council were to accept the responsibility of foregoing the tax in a hard case. When the Bill gets into Committee, I shall probably suggest a number of amendments. I have received many communications concerning it from a number of persons. I might mention that quite recently Sir John Madden, who is well known as the witty Chief Justice of Victoria, made a somewhat humorous statement in reference to the provision requiring a man to be the valuer of his own property. He said that if he made a mistake, his hearers knew what the conse quences must be. On the other hand, if he employed a man to make a valuation, and the valuer made a mistake of say, 25 per cent., to quote the words of a character in Paul Jones, he might say, “ He, the valuer, gets all the glory, and I get all thequod.”
– The Chief Justice of Victoria is paid to leave politics alone.
– According to the Labour party, all public servants should be politicians. This, however, was not a political speech. The Chief Justice was merely making a little joke. “ Quod,” I suppose, means prison. As there is always a demand nowadays for names whencases are mentioned. I propose to give all the particulars of a case in which clause 27 will operate very harshly. I am informed’ that Mr. E. T. Newell was solicitor for the late Mr. John Harris, of Sydney, who, as a recognition of past services, granted* him a lease for ninety-nine years from 1st December, 1877, of certain allotments at Ultimo, at what would now be considered an almost nominal rental, namely, £200- per annum, the tenant undertaking to pay all rates and taxes, whether municipal or parliamentary. After the death of Mr. JohnHarris, the land was sold, and purchased for a trust under a settlement, and was assessed by the Commissioners of Taxationfor New South Wales, at £10,250. I do not know if it is intended to insert in the Bill a provision to determine the proportions in which landlord and tenant will pay the taxation to be imposed, but in any case a very awkward position will be created.
– The matter is already dealt with in the Bill.
– The provision in the Bill is difficult to understand. If the landlord has to pay the whole of the tax, and is a man possessing large landed interests, it will probably absorb more than he receives from the tenant, while if the latter has to pay, the tax will probably come to more than the rent. Honorable senators will see that the clause needs careful consideration. I have already suggested that the Commissioner and his associates should be compelled to report to the Executive Council, whose members will be above suspicion. It should not be in the power of a mere official to ruin a citizen.
– In a matter of this kind, I would sooner trust the officer appointed to administer the Act than any political body.
– Ministers are in duty bound to do what is right and just between man and man, and should be the last persons before whom cases should come.
I understand that about thirty petitions have been presented against the Bill, and if any person thought proper to move that it be read this day six months, I, for one, should feel justified in voting for the motion. Senator Ready has referred to the New Zealand tax. Let me tell honorable members what the New Zealand provisions are. I have got extracted the information from the New Zealand Official Year-book, for1 909. According to that authority, where the total unimproved value of all the land of any taxpayer is not less than £5,000. but does not exceed £7,000, the tax is, not1d., as under the proposal we are considering, but i-i6d. in the £1.
– There is, in addition, a flat-rate tax.
– At what rate?
– At the rate of id. in the £1.
– The New Zealand graduated tax on unimproved values is as follows -
Exceeding £7,000 and not exceeding £9,000. 2- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £9,000 and not exceeding £11,000, 3- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £11,000 and not exceeding £13,000, 4- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £13,000 and not exceeding £15,000, 5- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £15,000 and not exceeding £17,500, 6- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £17,500 and not exceeding £20,000, 7- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £20,000 and not exceeding £22,500, 8- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £22,500 and not exceeding £25,500, g-i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £25,500 and not exceeding £27,500, io-i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £27,500 and not exceeding £30,000, n-i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £30,000 and not exceeding £35,000, 12- i6d. in the £1.
Exceeding £35,000 and not exceeding £40,000, 13- i6d. in the £1.
When the unimproved value reaches £40,000, the rate is 8s. per cent… and for every additional £1,000 of land value, the rate is increased by one-fifth of is., the increase of each graduation being chargeable on the total land value owned. The rate reaches its maximum at £200,000, all estates of that value, and over, paying at the rate of £2 per cent, on the total land value. A rate of 2½ per cent, is equal to 6d. in the £1, while 2 per cent, would be equal to about 5d. On and after 31st March of this year, the rate for estates whose value exceeds £40,000 is to be increased by 25 per cent, in the case of all land except land used for business premises, which is defined as land included within the area of a building used for business purposes, together with such additional land as immediately adjoins the building, and is used and occupied in connexion with it, and does not exceed in extent the area of the building. A building is deemed to be used for business purposes if it is exclusively or principally used, whether by the owner or occupier, or occupiers, for the purposes of any business, trade, or industry. The graduated land tax is increased by 50 per cent, in the case of absentees. They are as unfair to absentees as we are, or, if anything, rather worse. It is made clear that the absentee tax does not apply to companies. I hope that provision will be included in our Bill. I draw special attention to this -
A person is deemed to be an absentee unless he has been personally present in New Zealand for at least one-half of the period of four years immediately preceding the year in and for which he is assessed for graduated land tax :
Under this Bill an absentee is, apparently, a* man who is away for six months, unless he happens to have a residence in Australia, but under the New Zealand Act a man must be absent for two years or thereabouts before being considered an absentee. That represents a great advantage as compared with this provision. Some of our senatois are contemplating a trip to the Mother Country next year, and if they are away for more than six months, I suppose they will be deemed to be absentees. It is also stated that -
Provided that no person who has acquired land in New Zealand within the said period of four years shall be deemed to be an absentee if be has been personally present in New Zealand for at least one-half of the period which has elapsed between the time when he first acquiied any land and the commencement of the year in and for which he is assessed for graduated land tax.
If an absentee taxpayer is liable to be assessed for graduated land tax jointly with another taxpayer who is not an absentee, they shall be assessed and liable jointly as if neither was an absentee, and the absentee taxpayer shall also be separately assessed and liable for absentee land tax on his share of the property.
It will be noticed that up to £40,000 the tax is i3-i6ths of a penny, as against 3d. in the £1 under this Bill. In Committee, I shall have several suggestions to make, and may have to draft some amendments; but I am not anxious to do that if the Ministry will treat us fairly. Sir Henry Wrixon, the late President of the Legislative Council of Victoria, a man universally respected, a barrister and King’s Counsellor, has issued a little address on the bursting up of land. I shall quote from it a few questions, to which I hope honorable senators will supply their own answers -
Think of the Australian Workers Union, who want to be bosses ! They, apparently, do not want to work. I feel that I have trespassed somewhat on the time of the Senate, but my constituents have a right to know my views on this question, and I should not be afraid to go before them tomorrow. If they think I am not good enough, I should be satisfied to remain behind. I hope that even at this eleventh hour the Government will take my suggestions into consideration, and allow us to make a few amendments in Committee. If they only want £1,000,000 per annum,they must surely be unjustifiably greedy if they take £2,500,000. I am not a pessimist. I believe in this country and its future. I believe it will progress in spite of disastrous legislation, impregnated with strong exclusive class bias, such as this is. More especially do I believe in the future of this grand country if we give encouragement to a fine, continuous stream of Euro pean immigration. Let us remember that we are still in our Federal political infancy, and are consequently in what may not inaptly be called the measles and whooping-cough stage of our existence as a Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clemons) adjourned.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following paper -
Return showing the expenditure caused by Federation, apart from the cost of transferred Departments, for the Year 1910-11.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101019_senate_4_58/>.