7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Control of Naval Waters Bill.
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
Publication of Minister’s Report
– I ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) whether he has prepared a report upon repatriation, and, if so, did he give that report to the Sydney Daily Telegraph for publication before presenting it to Parliament, or before any of the other leading newspapers of the Commonwealth were were supplied with it? Has the Minister constituted the Sydney Daily Telegraph a super-parliament ?
– The Minister has not done anything of the kind. I have prepared a report, which I propose to lay upon the table of the Senate. Follow ing a long-established and well-understood practice, I forwarded to the whole of the Inter-State press copies of that report, with the intimation that it was not to he released until after it was tabled in the Senate to-day. I am given to understand, by wire, that for a cause, of which I know nothing now, in the case of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that intimation was not observed. I am communicating with the editor, to ask him for such explanation as he cares, or is in a position, to supply.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he has seen a statement to the effect that when President Wilson was signing the Emergency Agricultural Appropriation Bill he added a rider providing for national prohibition from 1st July, 1919, until the American Armies have been demobilized? If the Minister has seen that statement, will he cable to the United States Government to ascertain the reason they had for taking. such a step, and supply the information to the Senate ?
– I have not seen the message referred to, but I recognise its interest for the honorable senator who submits the question, and for many others. I am not quite certain as to the propriety of a message couched in the termssugfasted by the honorable senator being ad- ressed to President Wilson, but I shall endeavour to obtain from America, when the propercourse can be indicated, the information which the honorablesenator desires.
Deaths at Sea - Demobilization.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is now in a position to supply the names of the sixteen members of the Australian Imperial Force who died from disease on ships going to and from Australia?
– The information is as follows : -
Cases on Troopship “ Barambah.”
No. 61000 Private G. F. Spinks, 9th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 19th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 61720 Private L.R. Scroggie, 12th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 19th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 61216 Private W. S. Short, 10th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 20th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 3126 Private D. J. Breeden, Railway Unit Reinforcements for United Kingdom, died at sea, 20th October, . 1918, influenza (buried ashore)..
No. 61174 Private A. W. Jenkyn, 10th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 17th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 60964 Private C. B. Mathrick, 9th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, ‘ died at sea, 17th October, 1918, influenza
No. 61030 Private J. Moyle, 9th ( V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 17th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 61589 Private F. Buggins, 12th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 18th October, 1918, influenza.
No.61006, Private L. Tait, 9th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 18th October, 1918, influenza.
No. 61161, Private S. Harvey, 10th (V.) General Service Reinforcements, died at sea, 18th October, 1918,. influenza.
No. 62343, Private A. C. Rust, 5th (S.A.) General Service Reinforcements for United ‘ Kingdom, died at sea, 18th October, 1918, influenza.
Cases on Troopship “Marathon.”
No. 3384, Private S. Smillie, 34th Battalion, died in port, 3rd November, 1918, influenza, pneumonia, and heart failure.
No. 4366, Sergeant P. C. Walker, 2nd Pioneer Battalion, died in port, 3rd November, 1918, influenza, pneumonia, and heart failure.
No. 13644, Private G. Rolfe, 6th Field Ambulance, died in port, 3rd November, 1918, influenza, pneumonia, and heart failure.
Vase on Hospital Ship “ Assays.”
No. 3227, Private W. Gallagher, 9th tight
Horse Regiment, died at sea, 13th October, 1918, influenza, supervening collapse (buried at sea) .
Case on Troopship “ Borda.”
No. 517, Private L. V. Douglas, 29th Bat talion, died at sea, 16th November, 1918, acute myocarditis, influenza, hyperemia (buried at sea).
– I - I ask the Minister for Defence whether the information available in bis Department leads’ him to believe that, -according to the statement of
Major-General Howse, published . in this morning’s newspaper, it will take about eighteen months to demobilize and return our troops to Australia?
– There is varied information on the subject in the Department. Estimates of the period required for demobilization, ranging from nine months to three years, have been given by different authorities. However, the general impression seems to bo that indicated by Major-General Howse, that it will probably occupy about eighteen months.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act 1903-1918. - Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 303.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1916. - Land acquired at -
Casterton, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Mooroopna, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Repatriation Department: Summary of Activities from 8th April to 31st October, 1918.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 286.
Arbitration (Public Service Act) 1911 -
Awards of Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with plaints submitted by -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association - Further Variation (dated 1st November, 1918).
Postal Sorters Union of Australia - Further Variation (dated 1st November, 1918).
Public Service Act 1902-1917.- Promotion of S. E. Deegan, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Prohibition of Publuc Meetings
– I ask the Min ister for Defence whether he intends to give effect to Statutory Rule No. 301, under the War Precautions Act, dealing with the prohibition of public meetings. I may be allowed, in order to refresh the honorable senator’s mind, to quote the regulation, as follows: -
What is the purpose of that regulation, and why, the “war being over, are the Government putting it forward?
– The purpose was to prevent the holding of meetings of a character calculated to create a breach of the peace. The regulation was put into operation in connexion with the proposed holding of a meeting in Brisbane of a character that would probably have created serious trouble. That regulation and all other War Precautions Regulations are at present receiving the attention of the Government as to which of them can be abandoned in view of the present position of affairs in relation to the war.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the recent announcement in the press, that the Government have decided to withdraw the regulations controlling horse racing throughout Australia, applies also to other forms of sport curtailed under the War Precautions Act during theperiod of the war ?
– Yes, it applies to the regulations controlling sport generally.
Government Control of Metals : Export of Scrap Tin.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. on Saturday next.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– I have in this chamber and elsewhere voiced the dissatisfaction that exists with the administration of many governmental activities and controls that have been created and have grown up as the result of the war, and of the powers given under the War Precautions Act. Nobody with even an elementary knowledge of the subject will deny the enormous extent of Government control. In every avenue and section of commercial life all will realize how great the responsibilities of the Government have been, and how large have been the developments of Ministerial responsibility. Parliament early in the war gave the then Government authority practically to do anything,, by passing the War Precautions Act. It delegated its authority to the Government, and on that authority the Government have been controlling, in many cases in great detail, most of the commercial and the import and export activities of the Commonwealth. The Government have, on their part, delegated their authority to outsiders, and that authority has in many cases been reasonably well used under all the circumstances of the war and its enormous concurrent difficulties. But there has been growing up, as the result of this delegation of authority by the Government, an unofficial dictatorship in many directions, which is most repugnant to liberty-loving Australians. The commercial community is seething with dissatisfaction with some of the activities of Government control, and the Government, in ignoring the golden rule, that no persons should be placed in Governmentauthority who would be able to benefit, directly or indirectly, through that authority, have laid themselves open to criticism. In many Governmental activities the real control is in the hands of parties who, directly or indirectly, benefit through it. These men, no doubt, are patriotic and unselfish, but I do not think it is a wise policy so to administer some of our great national undertakings that the risk is run of them getting into the hands of interested oligarchies. This state of affairs may be made necessary by war conditions, but under the cloak of war much is’ done in the way of government by regulation that is most repugnant to the people. I believe I am voicing the general opinion in Australia when I say that what the people are longing for now is to get back to normal conditions, to resume their normal lives, and to see Government interference and Government expenditure reduced to normal proportions. That is, that Parliament should again assume legislative authority, and that, now the war is practically over, the minimum of restriction should be placed upon the people by Government intervention. There has been, during the war an abrogation to a large extent of the authority of Parliament by Ministers in all Ministries, and under all circumstances. Large sections have suffered, and while patriotic Australians will not complain of injustices during war time, the Government must now realize that people will bitterly resent the continuance of many of the unnecessary restrictions at this stage.
An illustration of the abuse of power delegated by the Government under the War Precautions Act has recently come under my notice. On the 26th May, 19-17, the Metal Recovery Company Proprietary Limited was registered in Melbourne with a nominal capital of £20,000 in XI shares. Among the names subscribed to the memorandum of association is that of Mr. William James Norman Oldershaw, described as of 60 Avoca-street, South Yarra, manufacturer. The objects of the company are to recover tin from tin clippings, &c. Its address is Montague-street, South Melbourne. I am informed that about 8,000 shares have been issued, paid up to 15s per share, so that the working capital is about £6,000. The William James Nor-j man Oldershaw, named in the memo-j randum of association, is the Colonel Oldershaw, who, at present, represents the Government on the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and who is, or was until recently, controller of sugar and purchases the Commonwealth supplies of all foreign sugar. He has ah office in the Prime Minister’s Department in the Treasury Building. He was also, not so long ago, manager of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. This gentleman is consequently a high Government official with most responsible duties, and certainly is the recipient of a good deal of confidential Commonwealth information as a result of his position. He is, I understand, Chairman of Directors, of the Metal Recovery Proprietary Limited, a concern that, so far as I can ascertain, has’ no connexion with the Government at all. It is an ordinary industrial business,- and Colonel Oldershaw was, I understand, largely instrumental in its formation, and was allotted in it 500 shares. It is only fair to him to assert that he states he consulted the Government before forming the company, and was permitted to take a part in forming it, and in continuing to occupy a prominent and permanent position in connexion with its operations.
The other gentleman concerned in connexion with the matter is Sir John Michael Higgins, who has been honoured by His Majesty the King in recognition of his valuable services to the Commonwealth Government. He is Chairman and Government nominee on the Central Wool Committee, Government representative on the Zinc Producers Association, Government representative on the Copper Producers Association, and a member of the Victorian Committee of the Institute of Science and Industry. He it was who, as agent, offered the Blythe River Iron Deposits to the Government more than twelve months ago, with the reservation of a commission of £10,000 to him, which offer was then refused. He has recently successfully offered an option on these deposits to the Government for the sum of £3,000 cash; with a reservation, if the sale is completed, of £10,000 commission, but this time it is specifically provided that the sum mentioned shall be used for the foundation of scholarships in connexion with scientific research, on conditions set out by the donor. Sir John Higgins is officially described as the honorary metallurgical adviser to the Government, and he has done a considerable amount of good work in connexion with the Wool pool and in the organization of the metal industry. I am informed that he is now organizing a Tin Producers Association, so that, therefore, he has a tremendous amount of responsibility and power in connexion with Government activities caused through the war. Indeed, I go so far as to say that the Government, generally in matters in which he is concerned, take and act upon his advice. The wool tops question is a case in point, but as my time is limited, I shall not be able to deal with that subject just now.
The matter at issue concerns tin scrap, a by-product of the canning industry in Australia. The normal production of tin scrap is anything from 5,000 to 10,000 tons per year. Germany was the principal buyer of tin scrap before the war, at approximately £2 per ton f.o.b. ports, metallic tin then being about £150 per ton, and steel at the low pre-war prices. Nearly ten years ago an industry was started in Sydney for the treatment of tin scrap, but after carrying on for some years, the company failed and went into liquidation, thousands of pounds having been lost in the venture. Immediately after the war started another effort was made in a small way in Sydney to establish the de-tinning industry. I have some personal knowledge of this venture.
Apparently Colonel Oldershaw also thought that it was a profitable business, because he started a de-tinning factory in Melbourne, which was registered in May of last year. Then metallic tin was an abnormal price, and steel scrap was exceedingly valuable. I am informed that, since Colonel Oldershaw’s industry was started, 40 tons of tin scrap per week, or, say, 2,000 tons in all for a year, has been the maximum amount of scrap they have been- able to treat, and as anything from 5,000 to 10,000 tons of scrap tin is produced annually by all the canners in the Commonwealth, Colonel Oldershaw’s factory and the Sydney factory put together could not treat much more than half the total of scrap produced. The Sydney factory made a loss of £47 on its first year’s operations. The second balance-sheet is now due, and no profit is expected by some of the shareholders. I understand that an investigation of the books of Colonel Oldershaw’s factory was made a month or two ago, and that no profit was shown either, although the owners of scrap tin had been induced to supply it free of charge ou a promise of 25 per cent, of the net profits when profits were made. No profits have yet materialized. If they have not been earned at the present abnormal prices for tin and steel, it is less likely that any profits will be earned now that the market in these commodities is falling so rapidly.
Sir John Higgins, in his laudable desire to help in the establishment of new industries, and probably not knowing that this particular industry was not new, was induced to recommend the Government to place an embargo on the export of tin scrap. There had been no buyers’ of this material for the first year or two of the war, but some time ago the Japanese became interested, and offered £4 15s. per ton f.o.b. Melbourne for scrap, a definite contract being booked for a large parcel. It was fully anticipated by the merchants and suppliers that some thousands of tons of this hitherto useless material would be purchased by Japanese buyers if the embargo on export were lifted. But Sir John Higgins was adamant. He stated some months ago, in a letter to one of the parties concerned, that the export of this material would not be permitted. The Customs authorities saw no objection to the export, as the firm to whom the goods were to be exported was a friendly firm, and Sir John Higgins was informed that the British Embassy in Tokio had cabled a recommendation for this firm to the Government in Melbourne. Freight for 500 tons had been engaged by the Japanese purchasers at £7 per ton, but, owing to the action of Sir John Higgins, the sum of £5,000, if not £10,000, in actual cash was lost to Australia. A large part of the tin scrap that could have been sold at £4 15s. per ton was afterwards taken to the tip because Colonel Oldershaw’s factory could not handle it. Of course, the business with. Japan is now off, owing to the armistice. At a conference held last month with Sir John Higgins and the parties interested, the owners of the scrap which a few months ago could have been sold for export at £4 15s. a ton, offered it to Colonel Oldershaw’s factory at £2 15s. per ton, which offer was refused.
Then the most extraordinary counter offer came from the Attorney-General’s Department on the 25th November, signed by George S. Knowles. That counter offer was that the holders of the scrap - that is, the owners of it who were refused permission to export - could now receive 75 per cent., and the company 25 per cent., of the net profits, but the owners of the scrap must pay for all actual working costs of treating it, including depreciation on buildings and plant, and interest at 7 per cent, on the amount of capital actually paid up. Payments were to be made to the company in cash, monthly, by the owners of the scrap for treating the tin- scrap that they supplied, which was to be delivered to Colonel Oldershaw’. company without cost. A more impudent and more outrageous proposal I have never heard. Firstly, the company will not buy the scrap, on the ground that it is getting all that it can handle for the taking of it away, the only consideration being a promise to the owners to pay them a so far nebulous 25 per cent. on. the profit made. Secondly, Sir John Higgins, by virtue of his position, has prevented the owners of the scrap from selling it to the only buyer in the market. Then, when the matter is pushed further, the canmakers, who have been prevented from getting a sum of nearly £10,000 for 2,000 tons of tin scrap, are, by the action of the Government’s representative, now that the market has gone, coolly asked to supply capital to run a business that has m_,8 no profit since it has been established, to supply this business with scrap free of cost, and receive in return 75 per cent, of the net profit made after interest on capital has been paid, and depreciation has been allowed for. This in a concern which thus far has made no profit !
There are upwards of 2,000 tons of this tin scrap stacked in Melbourne to-day - scrap which could have been sold for close on £10,000. This money would have helped the profits of the companies who owned it if Sir John’ Higgins had acted fairly in this matter. This enforced waste must perforce be paid by somebody. Sir John Higgins was informed some time ago that it was proposed to send a first shipment of 1,000 tons of this scrap to Japan. He refused the permitto export. Then it was offered at f.o.b. price, less the cost of bagging and carting, to Colonel Oldershaw’s company. That company’s reply was. that it had two years’ supply of scrap in sight, and could not take this particular parcel for two years,, and even if it did purchase it, its price would be 10s. per ton at the’ factory. Colonel Oldershaw is in receipt of a salary of £600 a year from the Commonwealth, in addition, presumably, to allowances. I am informed that 2,000 tons of tin scrap in Hobart alone has been consigned to the tip - a probable national waste of nearly £10,000.
The Industrial Australian and Mining: Standard of to-day’s date sums up theposition as follows: -
The Tin Scrap Position Summarized.
I yield to no man in my desire to see new industries established and fostered in Australia. I had the honour, when I was president of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, many years ago, of initiating the all-Australian manufacturers’ week in this continent. I have been a consistent Protectionist all my life.
Time will not permit me to go as fully into this matter as I would have liked to go, but I have all the requisite data to prove my case up to the hilt. Had tame permitted me to do so, I would have read that data word for word in order to well establish my case. I think that some inquiry into this matter is necessary. It is extremely desirable that the questions should be asked why a highlyplaced Government official is concerned in outside business at all, and why the War Precautions Act is brought into force in connexion with a matter which does not even remotely affect the course of the war or the safety of Australia? What has the Acting Solicitor-General of the Commonweallth to do with this matter, and why is there no appeal from the arbitrary, wasteful, and apparently prejudicial action on the. part of a highlyplaced Government administrator? I intend to ask the Government to sanction am investigation into this matter by a special committee, constituted of members of this Senate. If .the following gentlemen are willing to act on such a committee, I would suggest the names of Senators Crawford, Fairbairn, Newland, Needham, O’Keefe, and myself - a representative from each .State - to inquire into the truth of the allegations which I have made.
– Under ordinary circumstances I should have conceived it to be my duty to endeavour to deal with some of the matters to which Senator Pratten has referred.
But it seems to me that the word which he employed in his last sentence - the word “ allegations “ - brings his view of what he has stated so much into line with my own view that I am bound to take notice of the very serious charges which he has accepted the responsibility of making in this Chamber. In the first place, he referred to the policy of the Government in regard to its efforts to foster an industry, and then he proceeded to make very serious allegations which suggest grave irregularities on the part of certain gentlemen - irregularities with which, on the honorable senator’s statement, it is to be assumed that the Government are familiar. In these circumstances, I feel that there is only one thing for me to do, namely, to suspend my own judgment, and to ask honorable senators to do the same thing, while we communicate with these two gentlemen, and ask them what they have to say about the allegations in question. On receipt of their replies, I can assure the Senate that the Government will promptly consider what further steps it may then be necessary to take. I do not suppose there is any desire to prejudge anybody. One statement is always good until another is made. While assuring Senator Pratten that there will be the fullest opportunity of pressing for an inquiry, if that may be deemed fit, it seems to me that the orderly and decent course to follow would be that which I have suggested, and I should prefer to take that course. For the reason that the whole matter has taken a somewhat grave turn, I do not propose to deal now with any other portion of the remarks of Senator Pratten. It is more appropriate that we should wait until replies have been received from the two gentlemen concerned before I, as a Minister, at any rate, venture further upon this discussion.
– This matter having been brought” before the Senate, I do not think it is one which should be left as the Minister (Senator Millen) desires. It should not be just a matter of Senator Pratten having made certain statements, and’ of nothing further being done until replies have been received from the gentlemen concerned. I do not know whether I correctly followed the trend of the honor.able senator’s statements, but there has become settled in my mind an impression that, owing to certain inside information, and to the powers that those gentlemen possessed under ‘ the Government, they were able to do some things calculated to benefit their businesses. It is so grave a matter that a Select Committee should be appointed to investigate it. There should be no waiting foi statements from the other side. The course to adopt is for any statements coming from that source to be made before a properly constituted tribunal. Why should the matter be permitted to drift until after Parliament has adjourned and a long period of time has elapsed 1
– That will not be the case. The replies will be in hand long before then, and the Government will have decided upon their course of action.
– I am at a disadvantage in that I do not know what that course of action may be. Senator Pratten has set forth one side of the case. If the statements of the other side are deemed so satisfactory that the Government feel that it is not necessary to grant an inquiry, I take it that there will be no inquiry held.
– The Senate will then be in a position to take the course which I have suggested.
– I know nothing of the circumstances as Senator Pratten has presented them, but I do know that when serious statements are made which reflect on the reputation of the Government, they should be immediately inquired into. The Government are responsible, and they cannot evade responsibility by placing it upon officials. These statements undoubtedly reflect seriously on the Government through the administration of certain War Precautions Regulations. And the Government should promptly give an assurance, therefore, that a committee of investigation will be appointed. It will be all the worse for -Senator Pratten if his statements fail, and all the better for the Government.
But to wait until certain gentlemen had replied to those statements would be merely giving an opportunity for them to put their case before the Government, whereupon the Government might consider themselves to be in the happy position of saying that the statements of Senator Pratten did not justify an inquiry. The nature of the statements just made is such that, in the interests of the Government, a public inquiry must be demanded. Anything short of that should be unsatisfactory both to the gentlemen concerned and to the Government. Certain statements have been made, and not without apparent conviction as to their correctness. No honorable senator could have listened to such carefully prepared and deliberately presented statements without being imbued with a suspicion that some Government officials were using certain powers for personal advantage, in the way of company promoting, or of helping to assist companies by securing tin scrap upon a promise of a share in the profits. This is a case where the gentlemen whose names have been mentioned must be given every opportunity before a properly constituted authority to state their side of the whole business.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Senate can constitute a proper committee of investigation?
– Supposing the Government refuses to supply the money t
– The committee would not want any money.
– I do not want to be led off the track. I know what is in the mind of Sir Thomas, namely, that the President might take some course of action by which funds would not be available to the committee. However, that is not the point at issue.
For the past half-hour we have listened to a deliberate recital of, perhaps, the gravest indictment ever levelled at the Government. I am not at all satisfied with the Minister’s promise, which is distant, vague, and somewhat indistinct: namely, that some inquiry will be held. I would like a definite pronouncement that the statements made are so serious that they are entitled to the fullest possible investigation. 1 ask that of the Government, and I do not think it is asking too much. Anything less would be too little. Are Senator Pratten’s statements to be left to a matter of correspondence in the press, in which, perhaps, half the facts will be suppressed and the other half so dressed that the public will be misled altogether? We cannot afford to have that course adopted. Here is a sufficiently grave indictment of the Government, seeing that the Government cannot take from themselves responsibility for their officers’ conduct; and, if the Government have nothing to fear by an immediate inquiry, that is the one course open. The Minister may have in mind, of course, that that is just the procedure which he intends to propose. But if that is so, surely the Senate is entitled to know at once. On the other hand, if there is anything being held back, or sought to be held back, so that the Government might deem it preferable that the replies of the gentlemen concerned should be in hand first, I can only condemn such an intention. These statements are so serious a reflection on the Government and the gentlemen concerned that not twenty-four hours should be allowed to pass before some Court or committee of investigation is authorized to immediately go into the whole circumstances.
– When sensational charges are being made there is often an inclination to rush to extremes, when, in cooler moments, honorable senators would think twice before adopting such an attitude. I do not desire to cast any reflection on Senator Pratten, or upon any other honorable senators likely to be connected with this matter. But this means more than an investigation into the doings of Sir John Higgins and Colonel Oldershaw. This is really an attack upon the Government. Senator Gardiner has assured us that the Government cannot shirk their responsibility in this matter, and that introduces the element of a party as well as a personal attack into the matter. In the circumstances, I think the offer of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) is a fair one.
– What is it?
– It is to communicate with the two gentlemen against whom charges have been made and give them the opportunity, which’ Senator Pratten has ‘had here this afternoon, to make a statement. In the meantime, the Senate should suspend judgment and action until we are better informed as to the position.
– Should the statement made by the gentlemen charged be a sworn statement?
– I do not know that there is any more reason why it should be a sworn statement than should the statement made by .Senator Pratten this afternoon.
– What if the Government consider the statement in reply to Senator Pratten satisfactory ?
– I am satisfied that if the answer supplied bv those gentlemen is not very conclusive in refutation of the statement made by Senator Prat.ten, neither the Government nor any member of the Senate will be inclined to shelter the two high officials who have been referred to. To take action now would be, to some extent, to prejudge the men against whom these charges have been made, and I do not think that the Opposition desire to do that.
– Speaking for myself, I shall judge them innocent until the evidence proves their guilt.
– That is a proper attitude to assume. Let us hear their statements before we take action. When serious charges are made against men I am not going to be led, in the excitement of the moment, to go to extremes, and perhaps do them an injustice. I do not intend to associate myself with any attack upon the Government’.under the pretence of an attack upon certain Government officials. If it is shown that the allegations made are founded upon truth I am certain that the Government will not take any action to save the skins of the individuals concerned.
– W - Why- does the honorable senator impart a party aspect to the matter.
– I have good and sufficient reason for believing that there is a party element associated with it.
– It comes from the honorable senator’s own side.
– The honorable senator says that it comes from our own side, but some of us here do not believethat. . Whether it does or not I shall not be led into committing the blunder of prejudging these gentlemen at the present moment.
– The honorable senator is not quite fair to Senator Pratten.
– I think I am. I do not wish to give Senator Pratten any advantage in this matter over those against whom he makes his charges. I ask honorable senators not to be led into a cul de sac, and assist in an attack upon the Government without any possible reason for such an attack, or assist in imparting a party element to this issue.
– There are two elements connected with this question which concern honorable senators, and they are the matter of time and the matter of the responsibility of the Government. It seems to have been conceded by the Minister for Repatriation (.Senator Millen) in reply to ‘Senator Pratten. that if there is thought to be any foundation for the allegations made by the honorable senator and the two gentlemen concerned do not furnish some reply satisfactory to the Government to show that the allegations are without foundation, an inquiry must take place. I understand that that is the attitude assumed by the Government. There is, thus, to be considered , the element of the responsibility of the Government. If these two gentlemen furnish a statement in replY’ with which the Government profess themselves satisfied, I take it that the matter will end there. It will then be open to members of the Senate, should they consider it advisable, to take action directly for the appointment of a Select Committee or a Royal Commission. Then we have to consider the element of time. There are indications that we are approaching the end of the present session, and there seems to be a feeling of apprehension on the part of some honorable senators that so much time may be occupied by the Government in receiving the explanation of the two gentlemen concerned, and in considering that explanation, that very little opportunity may then be afforded honorable senators to initiate an inquiry. I think it is quite possible, if these ‘ two gentlemen are in Melbourne, as I understand they generally are, for them to be supplied, practically in a few moments, with Hansard proofs of what Senator Pratten has said. Surely between now and before we meet to-morrow morning, at 11 o’clock, they should be in a position to deal as specifically with the allegations of Senator Pratten as he did with the matters contained in the correspondence and other papers which he has brought under the notice of the Senate. By the time we meet .to-morrow morning, the Government ‘might then be in a position to state exactly whether the matter needs any further inquiry, or whether a satisfactory explanation- has been given. I do not know that Senator Pratten, or any other member of the Senate, could at this moment move for the appointment of a Select Committee, as no notice has been given of such a motion. I doubt whether that course could be followed tomorrow, since no notice of such a motion has been given, and the time for giving notices to-day has gone by. It is extremely doubtful whether such a motion could be moved until the next day of sitting after to-morrow, which will be next week. If the Government felt disposed to facilitate matters they might see their way to make an announcement some time during to-morrow as to the explanation furnished bv these two gentlemen. In the meantime they could be supplied with Hansard proofs of what Senator Pratten has said. The honorable senator’s remarks were not very lengthy, and they were very direct, very specific, and very lucid. There should be little need for any lengthy consideration of them by the gentlemen whose reputation and conduct are involved. In the circumstances, if we are not going to discuss the matter generally, it is futile for us to consider an inquiry if we ignore the two determining factors in our action - time and opportunity to move a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee and the responsibility of Ministers in connexion with the matter.
– I naturally thought that Senator Milieu’s assurances would have been accepted by honorable senators generally as a fair statement of the way in which the Government intended to deal with charges which we hear now for the first time. I am somewhat surprised at the obvious and evident attempt of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) to turn this charge against two gentlemen, who have been giving their services to the Government during the war period, into an attack upon the Government itself. I feel sure that Senator Pratten did not intend that. I take it that the honorable senator felt that he was fulfilling a public duty, and possibly an unpleasant one, in bringing before the Senate certain information which he has acquired, and which he believes to be true, with respect to the gentlemen who have been referred to. The Government hear the matter for the first time, and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), in stating the position of the Government, made it quite clear that he did not stand as the advocate for these gentlemen. He stated that in common fairness he would take the earliest opportunity to place these charges before the gentlemen concerned, and ask them for their explanation and statements in reply.
Senator Keating has said that there are the two elements of time find the responsibility of the Government in this matter. I would direct the attention of the ‘honorable senator to the fact that there is no time for the Government to get the statements of these gentlemen and compare them with the allegations made by Senator Pratten, and form their opinions as to the action they should take before the Senate meets to-morrow morning. The honorable senator is aware that probably both Houses will be sitting until 11 o’clock to-night, and Ministers have various duties to perform. We shall reassemble to-morrow morning.
– It Ls not possible to get these charges into the hands of Sir John Higgins in the time.
– I doubt if it is, and even if it were, as the allegations are of an intricate and involved character, no doubt the reply will be equally intricate and involved, and it will take some time for the Government to weigh /ind consider the replies and come to « decision ,as to whether there is substance in the charges ov whether the refutation and explanation of them are reasonably satisfactory.
– That is the very thing that is scaring the Opposition.
– The remarks of Senator Keating and of the Leader of the Opposition indicate a suspicion of an attempt on the part of the Government to avoid bringing this matter to an issue, fs that >a reasonable attitude for honorable senators to take up? Why should the Government endeavour to evade dealing with this matter? I know of no reason why they should. I have no feeling towards the gentlemen referred to. I. know that they have apparently been rendering good and patriotic service during the war, and I shall be no party to having them condemned without a fair hearing, nor shall I be a party to sheltering them if they have done anything wrong or improper. I am sure I can say tie same for every member of the Government.
– T - The honorable senator may say the same for every member of the ‘Senate.
– I am speaking for the Government. On the question of time I think Senator Keating must see that the proposition he has put forward is impossible.
– I was pointing out what was scaring the Opposition.
– I am authorized by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to -say, on behalf of the Government, since he has no further opportunity to speak on the motion, that he gives an undertaking that the reply of these gentlemen will be placed before Parliament early in next week, together with an .intimation of the action the Government propose to take thereon. If the action the Government propose to take is not satisfactory to honorable senators generally the remedy will still rest with them. The Estimates have not yet been passed, and if they are not passed before the Senate rises we must apply for Supply. If the course which the Government propose to take after receiving the explanations of these gentlemen is not satisfactory to the Senate, honorable senators will then have a ready means of dealing with the matter.
– The Senate will still have power to appoint a Select Committee.
– I ,am assuming that under the forms of the Senate, time might not be given for coming to a conclusion upon a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee. I have stated the worst (position that could arise, assuming that the Government desired to evade their responsibilities. Assuming that it is so, honorable senators will still have that means by which they can register their dissent from the attitude the Government have taken up in the matter. t hope nothing will be said on either side to make it appear that we are prejudging this case, or to endeavour, as I think the Leader of the Opposition did, to swing the issue off from being a charge against officials who, in one case at least, are giving their services in an honorary capacity, into a general allegation and charge against the administration of the Government. I trust honorable senators will accept our assurance that we have no intention to assist in any evasion on this question. We give our assurance that these gentlemen will be asked for their replies, and that those replies, together with the statement of the Government action on them, will be brought before the Senate early next week.
.- It is regrettable that any honorable senator should, so far forget himself in his capacity as a wretched party hack as to make an absolutely unfounded charge, as Senator de Largie did, against Senator Pratten, that the honorable senator had conspired with members on this side in order that a general attack might be made upon the Government.
– There is no need to conspire with you to do that ; you are always ready.
– The honorable senator might also add “ willing.” It is unfortunate, too, that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) did not see his way clear when addressing the Chamber, to give the Senate that definite assurance which was subsequently given by Senator Pearce. X. am sure that Senator Pratten, who was no party to a conspiracy with members on this side, is, as honorable senators generally are, quite willing to accept, and does at once accept, as we do, Senator Pearce’s assurance that the statements of the men whose reputation is in a great measure at stake, will be placed before the Senate early next week, together with a statement of the considered judgment of the Government, and the action they propose to take upon them. If the Senate does not then consider the Government’s answer satisfactory, Senator Pratten, or any other honorable senator, will still have the right to move straight out for. the appointment of a Select Committee to go thoroughly into all the allegations made by him this afternoon. The time for giving notices of motion lias passed to-day. but it Senator Pratten does not feel satisfied now, it will be quite competent for him to-morrow to give notice of a motion for the appointment of such a Committee. That Committee might then hold its hand until Ministers were in possession of statements from Messrs. Higgins and Oldershaw. I am sure the Senate will, at the earliest possible moment next week, be taken into the confidence of the Government as regards both the replies of the gentlemen concerned and also the decision of the Government upon them.
– Rumours have been floating round for months past which ought before to-day to have made the Government take some action in this matter. Members of Metals Committees have resigned after refusing to sit with others, and no explanation has been given. Apparently Senator Pratten now has proof of the assertions lie has made, but no Select Committee should be allowed to try these charges. Nothing short of a. Royal Commission, consisting of a Supreme Court judge or a magistrate, should be intrusted with the case. The charges are about as serious as could be made against the reputation of these men. Senator Pratten deserves great credit for speaking, as he has done, and forcing the hand of the Government to have the matter investigated. I have been brought in contact with the very same questions, but I could never get any truth from anybody who was prepared to stand up and prove his statements. That is why I did not tackle the matter before. I am confident that Senator Pratten, before he took action, secured proofs, and is ready to give them in evidence in support of what he has said. It is the duty of the Government not to wait a moment before taking action.
– -In view of Senator Pearce’s statement, I will say nothing on the main question. I give Senator de Largie ray assurance that he is very much mistaken if he thinks there was a conspiracy between Senator Pratten and any one on this side.
– I did not use the word “ conspiracy.” I took the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) for my criticism.
– I k I knew absolutely nothing about this question until Senator Pratten rose in his place and moved the motion. I did not even know that he was going to move it. Consequently it is not fair that innuendoes should be thrown out by any one to the effect that there was some conspiracy between certain senators to embarrass the Government. I did not hear Senator de Largie use the word “ conspiracy,” but I was called out of the chamber for portion of the time he was speaking. I heard Senator Long say that Senator de Largie had suggested a conspiracy, and I did not hear Senator de Largie contradict him.
– I did not think it worth while.
– S - Senator de Largie was the first to import a party colouring into the del -ate. Personally, I did not know the question was to be brought up, and never discussed it with any one.
– As my time was extremely limited when I spoke first, I desire now to read some extracts in continuation of the case. I give my support to, and wish to associate and identify myself with the salient points contained in them.. The following comes from the Industrial Australian amd Mining Standard of to-day’s date: -
The war, of course, shut off this market from Australia, and for :i time after the commencement of hostilities large quantities of Australian tin scrap were clumped and wasted. Eventually, however, Japan founded a detlining industry, and approached Australia for supplies, offering our producers very profitable prices for the same. About this time, Colonel Oldershaw, once manager of the Commonwealth Government’s line of steamers, and now sugar expert to the Government, conceived an idea to establish a detinning industry in Melbourne which should use up all the Australian scrap and provide local producers with a home market for their waste product. Tlie project was regarded with great sympathy by Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, and Colonel Oldershaw’s scheme was favorably reported on by the Government’s metal adviser, Sir John Higgins. Hereabouts it is important to note that the Commonwealth Government has been actuated throughout by a strong desire to create and foster a new industry in Australia. As to tlie theoretical wisdom of its policy, no exception can be taken. Nothing is more important than that we should establish as many new industries in the Commonwealth as possible. Tha story of this particular attempt, however, redounds to the credit of nobody concerned.
Colonel Oldershaw, although a Government officer of high rank, drawing a large salary from the people of Australia, was permitted to form and manage a private company to carry on detinning in Melbourne. It was recognised from the outset that his company must secure supplies of tin scrap at a reason- able price in order to establish the industry in competition with Japan. The local producers of tin scrap were quite favorable to the idea, and one Victorian producer of tin scrap went so far as to make a present to the company of 500 tons for experimental purposes. The producers, however, were, very naturally, not disposed to give away all their product always to the company, and they let it be known that they expected the company ultimately to pay a fair thing for the scrap - the more particularly since. Japan had begun to offer high prices, being exceedingly anxious to get supplies, as she was short both of steel and tin, and needed both metals for her domestic industries. It seemed probable that the prospects of the company which “as rounded by Colonel .Oldershaw (and of which lie is still “the chairman of directors) might be prejudiced by the Japanese activity. Obviously Hie’ company could not expect to secure tin scrap gratis” with Japanese buyers willing to pay heavily for all they could get. The Metal Committee’ anticipated the needs of the local industry by recommending that an embargo be placed on “ the export of tin scrap from the Commonwealth.
The embargo was proclaimed, and it is still in force. Its effect has been to preclude the producers of tin scrap in Australia from access to the highly profitable Japanese market, and to put Colonel Oldershaw’s company in a position of absolute command over local supplies. Ever since that moment Colonel Oldershaw’s company, by reason of the embargo, has been getting its scrap for nothing, Victoria’s producers having only an option between giving it to the company and sending it to the tip. The company cannot at present deal with more than a moiety of the tin scrap produced in Victoria. It hopes ultimately to be able to treat all the Victorian production, but whether its hopes are realized or not it will still be unable to deal with more than a fraction of t;he tin scrap production nf the Commonwealth. Although the company has been working for nearly two years., it is not yet making a success of its enterprise, and it showed an actual loss in its last year’s operations. This, it must bc confessed, is a very disheartening result, in as much as the company has been getting the great bulk of its highly valuable raw material for nothing. The majority of suppliers to the company supply gratis, firstly, because the company wm not purchase the scrap, and, secondly, because the company extends them a hope of being compensated eventually by receiving a share in net profits, which have never yet materialized. Producers have to supply on these terms, because they can get no other from” the company, and the company rules tha roost.
Another extract with which I wish to te associated is -
The trumpery result that has been achieved by the embargo (the creation ‘of an industry that is not on a profitable basis now, and is never likely to be), has been achieved at the expense of the tin scrap producers, and it has been achieved at the expense of excluding a. large sum of wealth from the Commonwealth which could easily have been earned had export been permitted. Some six months ago, steps were taken by some of the larger Victorian producers of tin scrap to have this matter reconsidered by the Government. Certain Melbourne producers had accumulated stacks of tin scrap amounting to between 1,600 and 2,000 tons. They had first offered this scrap to Colonel Oldershaw’s company at a reasonable price, but Colonel Oldershaw’s company declined to purchase at any price. ‘J he tin scrap was then offered to the ‘Sydney company, with a like result. Japan was most eager to secure this supply, and offered to pay the owners upwards of £4 10s. per ton for same, net, and to be responsible also for the freight, which could not have been secured at. the time at less than £10 per ton, probably a good deal more. This fact fixed the actual intrinsic value of the tin scrap at upwards of £14 15s. per ton. In consequence of the embargo, however, the owners of the scrap found themselves absolutely unable to realize its value. In despair they approached the responsible Boards and committees, but for a. long time all their attempts to gain consideration of their case were positively unavailing. Eventually, through the good offices of the Federal Board of Trade, some attention was paid to their claims, and after six months of vain negotiations a conference was arranged between the owners of the scrap and Colonel Oldershaw’s company, which conference waspresided over by Sir John Higgins. At this conference, which took place last month, theposition was discussed. Sir John Higgins informed the owners of the scrap that it was his policy to establish the detinning industry at all costs, and he suggested that the producers of tin scrap ought willingly to sacrificethemselves in the national interest. The producers pointed out to Sir John Higgins how greatly they had already shown their sympathy for the industry by tolerating the embargo uncomplainingly for a long while, and by actuallymaking a free gift to Colonel Oldershaw’s company of several hundreds of tons of thescrap. They pointed out, moreover, that they were willing to sell their scrap to Colonel Oldershaw’s company at a very much lower price than to Japan”, but that Colonel Oldershaw had been unwilling to buy the same or toquote any price therefor. He” insisted on getting the scrap For nothing, and obliging theproducers to depend for any compensation on> the slender chance of his treating the scrap at a profit.
– Who wrote all this ?
– It is an extractfrom the Industrial Australian amd Mining Standard.
– It is not a veryreliable paper.
– Another extract from the same journal is as follows : -
Further, to show their sympathy towards theGovernment’s strange endeavours to establish the detinning industry, the 1 tin producersoffered to make a free gift of 1,000 tons of tin scrap now stacked in Hobart, provided that, licence should be given to export a similar quantity immediately to Japan. This liberal’ offer, however, was not accepted, as Colonel Oldershaw apparently did not wish to pay thefreight of the scrap (£1 per ton) from Hobart to Melbourne. The result of the conferencewas that Sir John Higgins put it to Colonel Oldershaw’s company that the company should agree to treat the accumulated scrap now located in Melbourne, and he promised, if Colonel Oldershaw could not give guarantees to that effect within a month, that the position would be reconsidered. Since the holding of the conference we are given to understand that Colonel Oldershaw’s company has expressed its willingness to expand its plant and to treat a certain quantity continuously of the accumulated scrap which the owners wished to export, providing that the owners of the scrap pay monthly the working costs of the company, including depreciation and interest at 7 per cent, on the company’s paid-up capital !
This decision, needless to say, has notad- vantaged the position of the scrap producers in the slightest degree, for Colonel Oldershaw’s company not only expects the whole of the scrap to be given to his company fornothing, but that the company’s working costs shall be paid monthly by the scrap producers; and all he proposes to do is to pay the owners a share of the net profits, if any, arising from detinning. Inasmuch as the company’s operations have not yet shown a profit, his offer is derisory to the last degree.
Another glaring anomaly is that tin may be exported from the Commonwealth and steel may be exported from the Commonwealth, but tinscrap, which consists of tin and steel, may not be exported. This embargo ontin scrap has been maintained in the interests of a company founded and managed by the head of one of the bureaucratic Boards that are now running the business affairs in Australia. No doubt, Sir John Higgins, in his position as head of another Board, and Colonel Oldershaw himself, have been actuated by the most pub lic spirited and disinterested motives, but the -effect of their actions has been to deprive the Commonwealth of a good deal of wealth, to cause a vast wastage of a valuable commodity, And toseverely injure a considerable number of Australian manufacturers, and the sole purpose that has been accomplished has been the precarious establishment of a tin-pot little industry that gives present, but in all probability ephemeral, employment to no more than twenty hands, including carters.
I have read the extracts, and have made my observations this afternoon with’ all the responsibility attaching to my position as a member of this honorable Senate. I have satisfied myself that in the main the statements made are correct. If time had permitted, I could have read documents to honorable senators that would have conclusively proved many of the statements I have made this afternoon, and I was sorry, indeed. that the Government Whip, the paid servant of Ministers, had the audacity to suggest that I have placed this case before the Senate in any other capacity than as a representative of the people of the Commonwealth, and voicing one of their com plaints. I want to dissociate myself altogether from any party aspect in this matter. It is not a matter of party at all. I agree with Senator Pearce in his statement that there is no reflection on the Government. That was not my object in bringing this matter before the Senate. My object was to show that the position was certainly unusual, and to prove also that the sooner this unofficial dictatorship, which the Government, by virtue of the War Precautions Act, must perforce delegate to other people, is removed, the better it will be for the people of Australia and for the Commonwealth Government. “ I was glad to hear my honorable friend, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), say that the matter mentioned in my speech will be immediately inquired into. I ask the Government not to burke an inquiry - I made no reflection on the Government - but to give me and also other persons interested who have made statements, an opportunity of proving up to the hilt what has been placed before the Senate this afternoon! I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion (by leave) withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Christmas Comforts - .Separation Allowance - Bendigo Military Camp
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the published statement that the demobilization of our troops overseas will shortly commence, can the Minister state whether or not arrangements have been made to deliver, either abroad or here in Australia, the Christmas billies and other Christinas comforts despatched to members of the Australian Imperial Force by their friends and relatives?
– The rule relating to the matter is contained in War Precautions Regulation No. 64c, which is as follows : - “ Parcels, including packets, which have been sent from Australia addressed to any member of any Naval or Military Force raised in Australia for service outside Australia, and which are unclaimed ‘by, or cannot be delivered to, the addressee outside Australia, .may be dealt with, and their contents disposed of as the Minister directs.”
It has been arranged that any such parcels or packets shall be handed over to the Australian Comforts Fund and the Red Cross ‘Society for distribution, amongst the troops generally. Articles of a sentimental nature would, of course, be returned to the senders. With reference to the opening part of the honorable member’s question, there is no information as to the return of the troops in any large numbers before Christmas.
Senator NEEDHAM (for Senator Barnes) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
When persons entitled to separation allowance, ‘but who have not applied for it, do apply, do they get it from the time they were entitled to it?
– Separation allowance is payable from the date on which application is made for such allowance. In the case of wives, separation allowance is automatically added to the allotment, and no application is necessary.
Senator NEEDHAM (for Senator Barnes) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the Government yet’ determined whether or not a compassionate allowance will be granted to Mrs. Hood, of Perth, .whose husband is reported to have died as a result of contracting “ anthrax “ from a shaving brush alleged to have been imported from Japan?
The Government cannot recognise any responsibility in this matter.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– All the information sought is being compiled, and will be furnished to both Houses as soon as completed.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Minister have prepared and laid on the table of the Senate a copy of all correspondence with neutral countries or their representatives regarding the purchase, or invitation of offers, with a view to purchase, of wheat from the Wheat Poolduring the past twelve months?
– The Australian Wheat Board has had no correspondence with neutral countries or their representatives on the subject mentioned, all dealings, with neutral countries being handled by the London Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the war profits on the sale of enemy goods, properties, and shares in Australia be entirely for the benefit of enemy subjects, or will they be retained as a set-off against claims for Australian losses during the war?
– The matter cannot be determined at present.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whathas been done, and what is the present position regarding the shipment of honey made at Sydney some time ago, which was stated to have been intercepted and landed at Brisbane, and is understood to have been seized by the Customs authorities?
– The honey is still in the possession of the Customs Department. It has been decided to prosecute certain persons connected with the transaction, and the matter is at present receiving consideration by the Crown Law authorities.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be prepared, and the honorable senator notified as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– May I, without trespassing on the procedure of the Senate, ask if that communication is recent? The Imperial Government were communicated with some twelve months ago.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 27th November (vide page 8389) :
Clause 9 -
Section6 of the Income Tax Act 1917 is repealed as from the twenty-eighth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen.
Upon which Senator Grant had moved, by way of amendment -
That the House of Representatives be requested to insert after the figures “ 1917 “ the words, “and sub-section (e) of section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915.”
– I wish to make the meaning of my amendment so clear that no honorable senator can be under any misapprehension in regard to the real position.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– Under our existing law an exceedingly heavy burden is imposed upon the building trade. As one who during the major portion of his life has been associated with that trade, I claim to speak upon this matter with more practical knowledge than is possessed by some honorable senators. The position to-day is that two persons may own adjacent blocks of land each worth, say, £200. One of these owners may decide to erect upon his allotment a dwelling worth £500 or £600. But should he do so, if his income falls within the category of taxable incomes, he is at once called upon to pay a tax of 5 per cent., not only upon the value of his allotment, but also upon the value of the improvements which he has erected upon it. That is distinctly detrimental to the building trade. I have never been a very enthusiastic supporter of the idea that we should encourage the establishment of industries by granting them bounties, or by means of protective duties or other adventitious aids. At the same time, I am strongly opposed to any legislation which is calculated to inflict injury upon any industry. The building industry is, I think, the largest industry in the Commonwealth. More people are employed in it than axe employed in any other occupation. Why it should be singled out for special penalties under our Income Tax Act I cannot understand. To-day I endeavoured to ascertain from the Commissioner of Taxation, and from the Deputy Income Tax Commissioner for Victoria, the amount of the revenue that is annually derived under the particular section of the Income Tax Act to which I am directing attention. That information, however, was not available, and, consequently, I cannot say how much the revenue would suffer by the repeal of this particular provision. No similar provision is embodied in any other Income Tax Act in Australia. It constitutes a decided handicap to the building trade. It is a penal tax which should at once be removed. At the present time there is an enormous demand for additional housing accommodation throughout Australia, and sub-section e of section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act of 1915- operates as a very great bar to enterprise. I would also remind the Committee that the Stonemasons Union, of which I am a member, comprises some 700 or 800 men. About 200 of its members have gone to the Front. Some of these’ have returned maimed, and, as a result,, are quite unable to follow their ordinary occupations. Is it not very unfair that this Parliament should deliberately enact legislation to prevent these men securing employment? Yet that is precisely what it has done. All that I ask on behalf of the building trade is that it shall be given a fair deal. Under one of the numerous regulations that have been issued under the War Precautions Act a man isnot at liberty, without the permission of the Treasurer, to add to his buildings if his contemplated additions will cost more than £1,000. That is a. serious disability-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– I merely mention the matter incidentally. I have no desire to pursue the subject further. I appeal to honorable senators to support my amendment.
– The Government do not propose to accept the amendment?
– Why ?
– For various reasons. I do not intend to follow the honorable senator’s long arguments about the blessings of a land tax and the iniquities of an income tax.
– I never even mentioned these matters during the course of” my speech.
– But the honorable senator has mentioned them upon previous occasions. All his arguments are those with which we became familiar when we read Progress and Poverty, and ivories of that character, in which the virtues of a land tax and the iniquities of an income tax are forcibly set out. There are two classes of taxpayers - one who may possess a house, and the other who has to live in a rented house. If the present provision is struck out, a man with a house of his own would have a distinct advantage over the man who pays rent. The public are taxed on their income, and are not allowed to include in their exemptions the amount they pay in rent. But an individual -who is wealthy enough to build a home for himself would be partially exempt if Senator Grant’s ideas were put into .practice. Senator Grant would tax the poorer man. He does not propose that there should be exemptions for the amount of rent paid. The Government cannot accept the honorable senator’s proposition.
– I am astonished at ‘Senator Pearce stating that to agree to the amendment would be io tax the poor man who pays rent. It would mean nothing of the kind. Under the Act, a man who “has borrowed money, or spent his own in building a home for himself is penalized. If any citizens should be encouraged, it 13 those who are in a position to build, and are anxious to do so. I ask the Committee to disregard the Minister’s objections, and to give the building trades, not a Protective Tariff, or a. bonus, but fair play.
Clause agreed to.
First schedule (Rate of tax upon income derived from personal exertion).
– This is probably the most objectionable part of the Bill. I intend to move -
That the schedules to the Bill be referred to the Income Tax Commissioner, with a request to formulate schedules, increasing by fractions of not less than a half-penny, such schedules to be so arranged as to produce approximately the same amount as it is estimated would ‘be produced by the schedules in the Bill. -
– On a point of order, will the .motion, in the form in which it has been indicated, be in accordance with the Standing Orders? The way in which the honorable senator could best test the Committee would be for him to move to strike out part of the schedules, or to ask the Committee to vote against them. But to propose to refer them to the Income Tax Commissioner for opinion and review does not appear to me to be according to the Standing Orders.
– - The occasion for the point of order raised by the Minister (Senator Pearce) has not. yet really arisen. Senator Grant has not moved a request. If he were to do so in the form in which he has indicated it, I would immediately rule him out of order.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested -to leave out the First Schedule with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following :- “’ Exemption, £250.
Under £300, 3d. or ls. in the £1. £300 to £400, Od. or ls. Gd. in the £1. £400 to £500, 9d. or 2s. in the £1. £500 to £600, ls. or 2s. 6d. in the £1. £600 to £700, ls. 6d. or 3s. in the £1. £700 to £800, 2s. or 3s. 6d. in the £1. £800 to £900. 2s. 6d. or 4s. in the £1. £900 to £1,000, 3s. or 4s. Cd. in the £1. £1,000 to £2.000, 3s. (id. or 5s. in the £1. £2,000 to £3,000, 4s. or os.. Od. in the £1. £3,000 to £4,000, 4s. 6d. or 6s. in the fi. £4,000 to £5,000, 5s. or 6s. Gd. in the £1.
Over £0,000, 5s. Gd. or 7s. in the £1.”
In moving this request, I am animated by the desire that the schedules should be referred back to the Income Tax Commissioner for review, so that he could place before Parliament a table” which would be much more easily operative than the present formula. If my amendment were agreed to, an income under £300 would be liable to taxation at the rate of 3d. in the £1. After having deducted the amount of exemption, any citizen could very simply calculate his liability. Few people, however, can arrive at the amount of taxation due under the schedules set out in the Bill. No State Income Tax Commissioner has had the impertinence to foist a proposition such as this upon taxpayers. Take, for example, the Land and Income. Tax Act in operation in Tasmania. The scale set out therein is simplicity itself. I shall cite only scale A, dealing with businesses. It is as follows: -
Under £150, 3d. in the £1. £150 and under £250, 4d. in the £1. £250and under £350, 4¾d. in the £1. £350 and under £400, 5¼d. in the £1.
And so it proceeds. On one occasion a schedule was placed before this Senate with a great flourish of trumpets, and it was set forth in curves of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees. The whole business was swallowed without a word of comment. Two days afterwards another schedule was placed before us, and we were told that that which we had swallowed a few days previously was not quite correct, and would we please swallow this. We swallowed it.
The Tasmanian schedule continues - £400 and under £700, 5½d. in the £1 on the first £400,6½d. in the £1 on the balance: £700 and under £900, 5,½d. in the £1 on the first £400,6½d. in the £1 on the next £200, and 7½d. in the £1 on the balance. £900 and under £1,000, 5½d. in the £1 on the first £400, 6½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 7½d. in the £1 on the next £200, and 9½d. in the £1 on the balance. £1,000 and under £1,500, 5½d. in the £1 on the first £400, 6½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 7½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 9½d. in the £1 onthe next £200, and11½d. in the £1 on the balance. £1,500 and under £2,000, 5½d. in the £1 on the first £400, 6½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 7½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 9½d. in the £1 on the next £200,11½d. in the £1 on the next £500, and1s.1d. in the £1 on the balance. £2,000 and over, 5½d. in the £1 on the first £400, 6½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 7½d. in the £1 on the next £200, 9½d. in the £1 on the next £200,11½d. in the £1 on the next £500,1s.1d. in the £1 on the next £500, and1s. 3d. in the £1 on the balance.
Any citizen who has been to a public school could easily ascertain how much he would have to pay under such a scale. Some time ago I submitted a matter of this kind to a number of young experts from the Training College at Jervis Bay. They assured me that they could solve my problem all right. I supplied them with stationery, and gave them a problem. They all solved it, and they were all different. So it is with everybody else who tackles it. The Taxation Commissioner himself has to employ expert advice. The Department, despite the high cost of printing and of stationery, has published a book of some hundreds of pages dealing with the income tax. It has published another book of about the same dimensions concerning the land tax, and another book of extreme dimensions for the war-time profits tax. Surely there is no justification for this business when we might, for example, adopt the Tasmanian method of calculating a land oran income tax. In the circumstances, I ask the Committee to agree to my motion in order that the matter may be referred to the Commissioner of Taxation to re-arrange the rates at not less than½d. in the £1, so as to produce the same amount of revenue as would be produced under the Bill as it stands. I do not wish to interfere with the exemption, although it is too low, or with the amount of revenue the Government expect to derive under this measure. But I do wish the schedule to be so framed that any citizen with an ordinary public school education may be able at a moment’s notice to calculate the tax upon any given income. If honorable senators will support my motion, they will discover in the very near future that they will have done the right thing in their own interests, because the public will highly appreciate the change.
.- The Government cannot accept this request. The honorable senator proposes a drastic change, not only in the method of calculating income tax, but in the schedule itself. The figures the honorable senator submits would alter the exemption and the rate of taxation. The honorable senator would introduce all the inequalities that are found to exist where schedules in the form he suggests are adopted. There is, under such a form, a marked inequality between the taxation of a taxpayer at the top of one scale and a taxpayer at the bottom of the next scale. The schedule to this Bill avoids those inequalities.
Schedule agreed to.
Remaining schedules .and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 8191), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– il wish, to make a few remarks on this Bill. I desire to commend the Government for their action in endeavouring to place at least .a small proportion of the taxation of the country upon those who are very well able to bear it. It is a very small proportion, but microscopic as it is, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that the Government may be induced to again return to this source of taxation and impose a little more.
I should like to place before the .Senate what I think should be continuously kept in view, the principles which should be considered as far as taxation is concerned. A number of people have written on .this subject at various times, and I propose to make some extracts from a book which is very familiar to Senator Millen and also to Senator Pearce. It is entitled Progress and Poverty, and “was written by Henry George. I find that the author quotes Herbert Spencer as saying -
Such a doctrine is consistent with the highest state of civilization; may be carried out without involving’ a community of goods, arid need cause no very serious revolution in existing arrangements. The change required would simply be a change of landlords. Separate ownership would merge into the joint stock ownership of the public. Instead of being in the possession of individuals, the country would bc held by the great corporate body - society. Instead of leasing his acres from an isolated proprietor, the farmer would lease them from the nation. Instead of paying his rent to tlie agent of Sir John or His Grace, he would pay it to an agent or deputy agent of the community. Stewards would be public officials, instead of private ones, and tenancy -the only land tenure. Tlie state of things so ordered would be in perfect harmony with the moral law. Under it all men would bc equally landlords, all men would bc ali.ke free to become tenants. . . . Clearly, therefore, on such a system the earth might be enclosed, occupied, and cultivated, in entire subordination to the law of equal freedom.
Adam Smith, dealing with the question, said -
The subjects of every State ought to contribute towards, the support of the Government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective ability; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State.
Henry George comments upon that as follows : -
Every tax which falls only upon, rent or only upon wages, or only upon interest, is necessarily unequal. . . .
In accordance with this is the common idea which our systems of taxing everything vainly attempt to carry out - that everyone should pay taxes in proportion to his means or in proportion to his income. But waiving all the insuperable practical difficulties of taxing every one according to his means, it is evident that justice cannot be thus attained.
Ricardo says -
A tax on rent would fall wholly on landlords, and could not bc shifted to any class of consumers, for it would leave unaltered the difference between the produce obtained from the least productive land in cultivation and that obtained from land of every other quality.
Commenting upon McCulloch’s statement that-
In a practical point of view, taxes on the rent of land are among the most unjust and ill-politic that can be imagined,
John Stuart Mill, another economic authority, says -
He makes this assertion solely on the ground of his assumption that it is practically impossible to distinguish in taxation between the sum paid for the use of the soil and that paid on account of the capital expended upon it. But supposing that this separation could be effected, he admits that the sum paid to landlords for the use of the natural powers of the soil might be entirely swept away by a fax without their having it in their power to throw any portion of the burden upon any one else, and without affecting the price of produce.
The final quotation I make from this book is one by Henry George himself, in which he lays down the canons of taxation. He says -
The best tax by which the public revenues can be raised is” evidently that which will closest conform to the following conditions: -
That it bear as lightly as possible upon production - so as least to check the increase of the general fund from which taxes must be paid and the community maintained.
That it he easily and cheaply collected, and fall as directly as may be upon the ultimate payers - so as to take from the people as little as possible, in addition to what it yields the Government.
That it be certain - eo as to give the least opportunity for tyranny or corruption on the part of officials, and the least temptation to law-breaking and evasion on the part of the taxpayers.
That it bear equally: - so as to give no citi zen an advantage, or put any at a disadvantage, as compared with others.
These principles laid down by Henry George are the correct principles of taxation, and are followed to a certain extent by the Bill before us. If the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) desires to bring about the quick settlement of returned! soldiers and many thousands of others who desire to settle on the laud in Australia, he will not do it satisfactorialy or economically by the method he is now pursuing; but he has here a method which, if he likes to adopt it, will at once cut down the enormous expenditure now being incurred by the Repatriation Department, and have the effect, not only of immediately making the lands of this country available for settlement, but also of keeping all available lands open for settlement in the future. That is a work that must be undertaken by the Commonwealth.
The extra amount which the Government are asking permission to raise by this Bill is comparatively small. It amounts to only £380,000 per year, which is scarcely worth talking about in comparison with the sum of over £2,000,000 which they propose to collect by the super-income tax we have just passed. The income tax is a distinct tax on industry. The more a person works, the more he employs, and the more salary he secures, the higher his tax will be; but this is a tax which does not fall upon industry.It falls upon monopoly. Consequently the Government are imposing only a very small tax on monopoly. They are making a great mistake not to raise the extra £2,200,000 from land, and leave out the extra income tax altogether.
The various States have power, if they so desire, to appropriate land values for State purposes, but in no State in the Commonwealth has this been done to such an extent as to make . the land of that State available for settlement at a reasonable price. It is most difficult in Australia to-day for a returned man to secure a suitable block of land for settlement. Reports which reach us show that many bargains have been made on behalf of returned men at fictitious figures, and in many cases millstones have been hung round the necks of those men from which they will be unable to recover. If the Government desire to make land available there is only one way to do it, and that is by means of land value taxation. The present Government, except so far as this small measure goes, have shown no indication whatever of an intention to take that course.
Let us see what the various States are doing. Queensland probably offers as good a home for returned soldiers as any State in the Commonwealth, and the Government of that State are making land available on terms as easy as those offered in any other part of Australia. I have no doubt that as many returned men will go to Queensland as to any other State. The opportunities are not confined merely to men who have gone from Queensland to the war, because every Australian returned soldier is equally welcome there. The Government of Queensland have had full power for many years to deal with this question, but they have not dealt with it in such a way as to make the land of the State easily accessible to returned men or to hundreds of others belonging to Queensland who would settle on the land there if they had the opportunity. It is true that in Queensland local government Acts were passed as far back as 1879 by Sir Thomas McIlwraith, and later by Sir Samuel Griffith, permitting the local governing authorities to raise the bulk of their revenue from land value taxation. They have done it so satisfactorily that all the other progressive States have slowly followed suit. That method of taxation for local government purposes has given such complete satisfaction in Queensland that no one contemplates its alteration.
But, from a State stand-point, we find that Queensland was the most reluctant of all the States to raise any portion of its revenue from land alone, and it was only, I think, when theRyan Government secured the reins of office that the Land Tax Act of 1915 was passed. Although it contains a number of substantial blemishes, that Act is, I think, one of the best land tax measures now in operation in the Commonwealth. It has none of those complicated methods of calculating the tax which disfigure and disgrace the Federal income tax. It is a plain, straightforward measure that the ordinary citizen can easily understand; but the land taxation imposed in Queensland is not sufficiently heavy- even when backed up by the local taxation and supplemented by the Federal land tax on estates of an unimproved value of £5,000 and over, to bring the lands of the State within reach of those who would be prepared to use them . The land speculators and land jobbers are still in evidence in Queensland. The following provisions of the Queensland Land Tax Act of 1915 will show how easy the measure is to understand : -
This Act applies to all lands within Queensland which, whether before or after the passing of this Act, have been alienated from the Crown for an estate in fee-simple. The rate of land tax shall be as hereunder set out, that is to say : -
If the taxable value -
Is less than £500,1d. in each and every £1.
Is £500 or over, but is less than £1,000, 1½d. in each and every £1.
Is £1,000 or over, hut is less than £2,000, 1¾d. in each and every £1.
Is £2,000 or over, but is less than £2,500, 2d. in each and every £1.
Is £2,500 or over, but is less than £3,000, 2¼d. in each and every £1.
Is £3,000 or over, but is less than £4,000, 2½d- in each and every £1.
Is £4,000 or over, but is less than £5,000, 2¾d. in each and every £1.
Is £5,000 or over, but is less than £10,000, 3d. in each and every £1.
Is £10,000 or over, but is less than £20,000, 3½d. in each and every £1.
Is £20,000 or over, but is less than £30,000, 4d. in each and every £1.
Is £30,000 or over, but is less than £50,000, 4½d. in each and every £1.
Is £50,000 or over, but is less than £60,000, 5d. in each and every £1.
Is £60,000 or over, but is less than £75,000, 5½d. in each and every £1.
Is £75,000 or over,6d. in each and every £1.
That is a system of taxation which may be grasped without trouble by any citizen. The Queensland Government went further, and decided to impose by that measure additional taxation on undeveloped land in the following manner: -
In respect of the financial year beginning 1st July, 1915, ml.
In respect of the financial year beginning 1st July, 1916,1d. in each and every £1 of the taxable value.
In respect of the financial year beginning 1st July, 1917, l½d. in each and every £1 of the taxable value.
In respect of each financial year thereafter, 2d. in each and every £1 of the taxable value.
That is a provision of somewhat doubtful utility. It involves the employment of a number of inspectors, who are doing no particularly useful work, and must be kept by the community. The result aimed at would have been secured much more easily bad the tax been imposed regardless of whether the land was developed or not. Later on it was found that the steps taken had not- been sufficient, and despite the very strenuous opposition offered by the Queensland Upper House, the Labour Government had an amending Act passed on the 6th September, 1918, which, amongst other things, provides -
In addition to the land tax provided by this
Act, land tax (called the super land tax) shall be levied and paid for the financial year beginning on the 1st day of July, 1917, and in and for each financial year thereafter during the continuance of the present war and the financial year next succeeding the financial year in which peace is proclaimed, upon the unimproved value of lands, the taxable value whereof is £2,500 worth or over, at the rate as hereunder set out. that is to say -
If the taxable value -
Is £2,500 or over, but less than £3,000,1d. in each and every £1.
Is £3,000 or over, but less than £4,000, 1½d. in each and every £1.
Is £4,000 or over, 2d. in each and every £1.
That is a very good proposition so far as it goes, but if it is true that the effect of the land tax is to reduce the selling value of land - and judging by their opposition to that Bill that is the emphatic opinion of the members of the Legislative Council of Quensland - I would point out that the additional tax does not operate on estates of less than £2,500 in value. Therefore it fails to bring land in that State really within the reach of the poor man.
There is another blemish in this Act which, I think, is very much to be regretted. It is in strict accord with the platform upon which the Government were returned, and therefore they could not -very well do otherwise than put it into operation. Dealing with exemptions, the Queensland Laud Tax Act makes this provision -
The taxable value of all land owned by a person is -
That means, in effect, that an absentee, or a company, holding land in Queensland exceeding £300 in value will get no exemption whatever, while a resident owner will have an exemption of £300. The really small man who desires to purchase land - and there “are many hundreds of them in Queensland - will get only a limited advantage from the operation of this Act, because, if it is true that land is reduced in selling value by the amount of the tax, .it follows that where land is not taxed no reduction in value has taken place. Consequently, the poor man who. wishes to buy land will not get much advantage from this tax. I consider this is a distinct drawback to the Queensland Act; but I hope the Government of that State will, later on, get instructions from the party outside to remove it, so as to bring the land in that
State within the reach of men who are not in a strong financial position. Those who are in fairly good financial circumstances can, as a rule, look after themselves, though, unfortunately, some Governments look after them to the exclusion of the poorer sections of the community. The Queensland Government have not, up to date, imposed land value taxation in sufficient volume to bring the lands of that State within easy reach of the poorer people, and, therefore, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to take a hand in the matter, as they have full power of taxation not only with regard to income, but in every other direction. I regret that the Government have not seen their way clear to bring down a proposal to meet a difficulty of this kind.
I think a very much worse position exists in New South Wales. It is most difficult in that State for the ordinary citizen to secure land for a home, a small farm, or a grazing area. If land is to be made cheap by taxation, there can be no doubt that the Commonwealth Government must take action, because the New South Wales Upper House, as now established, defeats without ceremony any proposal to compel the owners to contribute to the State revenue in proportion to the value of land held by them. It took many years to induce the New South Wales Parliament to give local governing bodies the right to collect revenue from land values only. It was not until Mr. Carruthers, iu 1906, took the matter in hand that this object was achieved. The measure then passed enabled local governing bodies to remove the taxation from improvements and collect their revenue from land values only, with the result that to-day all of the 191 municipalities in that- State, including the city of Sydney, have adopted this system of taxation. Taxation of improvements, so far as local governing bodies are concerned, is now a thing of the past, so that, if a man owns slum areas or vacant sites in good business or residential thoroughfares, he has to pay just as much in taxation to the local council as does the mau who makes improvements.
Some years ago the Australian Workers Union, along with other organizations, put up a large sum of money and built extensive premises known as McDonnell House, in Pitt-street, Sydney. The Daily Telegraph, another enterprising company, erected an immense pile of buildings in King-street. The Sydney Morning Herald added to their premises and The Worker newspaper Company also greatly improved their premises in St. Andrew’s-place. Though an exceedingly large sum of money was involved in the improvements those enterprising people to-day pay no more in taxation to the city council than they would be called upon to pay if the land were lying vacant. This method of raising revenue has given so much satisfaction in New South Wales that not one voice is now raised against it. With the exception, perhaps, of a few members of the Legislative Council, I do not think it would be possible to find two members of the State Parliament who would contemplate reverting to the old system.
Unfortunately, however, from a State view-point, practically no land tax is operative in New South Wales. Following a general election the late Sir George Reid brought in a Bill to impose a nominal tax upon all land values, with an exemption of £240, and though the measure became law, it was so intertwined with the income tax that at the very first opportunity the Government passed the tax over to the local governing bodies, so that to-day, with the exception of a small amount of taxation imposed on a number of freehold estates in the Western division, there is no State land tax in New South Wales. Last year the very nominal amount of £3,900 was received from this source towards the State revenue. A State land tax was in operation from 1897 to 1906, but it produced on an average only about £300,000 a year, and as I have said, this avenue of revenue was subsequently passed over to local governing bodies.
The position in New South Wales today is such that it is almost impossible to procure land for farming or other purposes, except at a price that will leave the buyer fatally handicapped for many years. I could give many illustrations of the difficulties that confront the settler in New South Wales, and would like to quote some figures from a. Statistical Register for 1916. I hope for the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), as the figures will demonstrate to him the utter impossibility of obtaining land in New South Wales at a reasonable pi-ice for returned soldiers, unless the Government are prepared to do something more in the way of land value taxation than they appear inclined to do in this measure. The Statistical Registrar for 1916 gives the area of alienated land in New South Wales as 56,288,977 acres, rather more than 26 per cent, of the total area, which is given at 198,000,000 acres. The alienated area includes a very large proportion of the best land. Senator Millen was reported in the press of the 19th inst. as saying that 17,000 holdings would be required for the returned soldiers, and that in New South Wales the proportion would be at least 6,500 holdings. What chance have those men of getting land to live on when they do come back ? I want to show honorable senators the true position. In 1915-16 the total area under cultivation’ was 5,343,955 acres of alienated lands - the best lands remember - not 10 per cent., and 450,880 acres of Crown lands; total, 5,794,835 acres. Of that total, 1,297,269 acres were cultivated on the “shares” system. The ordinary share farmer is a man who cannot get land of his own, and, therefore, has to “ beg a brother of the earth to give him leave to toil,” as the poet Burns puts it. That is the position of affairs with all these men away at the war. What will it be when they return? Is it not clear that the failure of the Government to deal with the matter threatens to produce a dangerous situation 1
Let us see what Mr. Robert Gibson, an estate agent at Harden, has to say upon the question of cultivation versus grazing. In a special article in the Temora Star of the 18th December last year - and his statement of the working of the shares system of cultivation is worth close attention - he says -
I enclose my estimate of returns likely to be got after the war, based on actual returns before this war and late drought for previous ten years. Cultivation on the shares, 640-acre farm, 400 acres for wheat, 25 acres for hay, 150 annually fallowed, balance grass for working horses and few cows. Average yield for wheat 15 bushels, for hay lj tons. The hay to be used on the farm. Plant required - Thirteen draught horses at £20, £260; machinery waggon, dray, harness, &c., £540; total, £800.
Returns - 400 acres, averaging 15 bushels, 6,000 bushels at 4s. per bushel nearest railway station, £1,200.
Share farmer’s share, £600 .
Expenditure - One man all the year, casual labour, harvesting, rations, duplicates for machinery, bags, twine, oil, &c, £320; 10 per cent. depreciation on plant, £800, £80 = £400.
Deduct 6½ per cent. involved on plant, £52.
Leaving a total of £148, or say, £3 per week for farmer’s own labour,working an average of twelve hours through the year, Sundays included at harvest time. Compare this with wages on railway, Public Service, and private employment, on eight hours (excepting stock agents and doctors, who work sixteen to eighteen hours). This explains why so many farmers’ sons have gone on the railways and tramways.
Land-owner’s share : receipts, one-half the crop, £600.
Deductions - 640 acres at £7 10s. an acre, £4,800; 640 acres at 5 per cent. interest per annum, £240; allowance for upkeep of improvements, £40; cost ofbags, fertilizers, and cartage, average distance 6 miles, £120 = £400.
Mr. Gibson makes it very clear that there is nothing in it for the share farmer but a very bare living. Consider the position of the land-owner. He gets £240 on the land and £200 “ profit,.” total £440, compared with £148 to the man who actually does the work. It should be borne in mind that a land-owner with a large area may have quite a number of share farmers each making £440 a year for him, while they are expected to exist on £148 themselves.
In the coastal divisions of New South Wales, in 1915-16, share-farming applied to dairying to a large extent; 70,912 acres were farmed in that way. This shows a deplorable condition of affairs. The coastal districts contain a large amount of good land. I want to direct attention to the way it is held. The position is set out in the following table from the StatisticalRegister for 1915- 16: -
It will be seen that over five-eighths of the land is in areas of over 400 acres, which number 5,423, out of a total of 46,878 holdings. Further, the State is operating 485 miles of non-paying railways in the coastal districts. The cost of these lines was £6,028,262, and the loss in 1917 was no less than £193,609. The expenditure of over £6,000,000 has greatly enriched a number of land-owners who fail to do a fair thing by the State and make reasonable use of the land. The position with respect to the tableland divisions is as follows: -
The bulk of the land is in areas of. over 400 acres, and is in less than one-third of the holdings. More than two-thirds of the cultivation is in the central tableland. The area farmed on the” shares “ system was 60,793 acres. The losses on the railways because inadequate use is made of the land, are very serious. The length of non-paying lines is 550 miles, costing £6,161,868, and the loss, according to the last report, was £143,459. There is plenty of land suitable for returned soldiers in these divisions,, but the owners will not put it to proper use. In this way, the bone and sinew of the country, which went to war to safeguard our liberties, cannot get a chance to live. If the New South Wales Government will not deal with this question in such a way as to bring these lands within reach of returned soldiers, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to exercise the powers conferred upon them by our Constitution to so arrange taxation that the owners of the fertile portions of Australia will be unable to continue year after year this dog-in-the-manger policy.
I come now to the Western slopes divisions. As we go west the size of the holdings increases, but we are face to face with the same problems - enormous areas not put to effective use. This will be evidenced plainly in the following table : -
Of the total number of 16,685 holdings, well over three-fourths of the land is in 2,876 holdings. The ordinary small holder, from 31 to 1,000 acres, on the average cultivates nearly one-third of the area, but in the larger areas it is only about one-tenth. Clearly, there is room here for plenty of returned soldiers if we take reasonable steps to require the owners to make fair use of it. In these divisions 660 miles of railway, costing £4,456,678, were run at a loss of £148,916. There is plenty of room for returned soldiers in these divisions, especially those who want to go in for wheat-growing. In these divisions 710,550 acres were cultivated on the share system in 1915-16.
Proceeding further west we have the Western Plains and Riverina divisions. Here is the position : -
The Riverina district is rightly regarded as one of the finest districts, if not the finest, in Australia. Yet it contains 329 big estates of over 10,000 acres, and their owners only cultivate lj per cent. Over nine-tenths of the land is held by fewer than one-third of the holders. The area farmed on shares was 520,516 acres. The length of non-paying railways was 833 miles, costing £4,188,313, and run at a loss of £132,747. These divisions alone contain enough good land to set up all the returned soldiers. If the Government were in earnest, they would say to all land-owners, “You must make full use of the land or let others have a chance.” The Government have a power ready to their hand to carry out these ideas. It is the power of taxation. While the Riverina district of New South Wales is almost large enough and wealthy enough to be a State of itself - and the land is of the very best quality, and the rainfall of fair average - we nevertheless find, from the returns furnished by the Statistical Registrar, that only 10.31 per cent, of the area held is cultivated. The proper course for the Government would be to take steps to make it obligatory on the part of owners to either use that land, or else to lose by keeping it, or to sell at reasonable prices to those who would be prepared to produce wealth from the soil. Apparently, however, the Government are not prepared to take action, because the small amount of taxation foreshadowed in this Bill will certainly not have the desired effect.
I wish now to summarize the whole position as it applied to New South Wales in 1915-16: -
I have set out the position of rural land holdings in my own State. I repeat that the alienated lands include the bulk of the best land. If our lands were put to their best use, we could absorb the whole of the 17,000 returned men who want land. The shocking conditions which now prevail show themselves in the following facts: - For 1917, 2,800 miles of railway, costing £22,027,268, were run at a loss of £662,235. The loss in the previous year was £639,745. As the Railways Commissioners put it in their report, “ 29.35 per cent, of the total amount expended on railway construction in the
State earned only £1,165,196; and, allowing for working expenses and interest charges, were operated at a loss of £662,235.”
I place these facts upon record to show the Government that the absence of a land value tax in New South Wales offers to them an opportunity which they should embrace, so that those fertile areas may not be permitted to escape taxation. Of the total area alienated, only 9.47 per cent, has been cultivated. Therefore, if the Government desire to find employment for returned men, and to give land to hundreds of other Australians who desire to take it up, they have ample scope. But I am afraid that is not the purpose of the Government.
One of the effects of the absence of land value taxation upon a basis sufficiently heavy to appropriate the value which the community gives to land is shown by the. position so far as New South Wales is concerned. It is impossible to construct a tramway or railway, or any public work, or, indeed, to expend any public money anywhere without bringing about the immediate effect of greatly enhancing land values. That being so, the obvious course should be to appropriate the value which the Government expenditure has given to the land. But that is the very tiling which the Governments” are most reluctant to do. Governments are prepared to impose taxes upon “ razzledazzles,” merry-go-rounds, picture shows, and incomes, and to impose Customs duties; in fact, to tax anything and anybody hut the people who own the country. The position is such that it is quite impossible in New South Wales for the Government to undertake any work without the Minister concerned rendering himself liable to the accusation that he is acting in the interests of private landowners. That should not be the case. If the State Government will not impose land value taxation to save their public men from suspicion, the Federal Government should go in for that form of taxation.
A considerable time ago a certain Minister of Public Works in New South Wales was waited upon by a large and re- presentative deputation of people interested in vacant land between Manly and Narrabeen. It was pointed out to the Minister how beautiful was the locality, how vast were its potentialities, and bow magnificent were its residential sites. The deputation emphasized that the construction of a tramway to a point at least half-a-mile further than it then went was highly desirable iri the public interest. The Minister listened carefully, and in reply he stated that be quite agreed that the tramway extension was necessary. But the position, so far as he was concerned, was extraordinary. He said, “ I myself happen to be the owner of a number of vacant blocks at the very point to which you wish me to continue the tramline.” Why should there be any objection to that. It is obviously because there would be a suspicion in the public mind that the Minister might be enriched by that construction. Under a proper system of land value taxation all the added value placed upon the land would have been appropriated by the Government for State revenue purposes. But, there being no measure of that kind in operation in New South Wales, it now lies with the Commonwealth Government to introduce taxation of such a character that a public man placed in circumstances similar to those I have described need not find himself held up to suspicion because he deemed it his duty- to sanction the expenditure of public money. It would be a much more equitable way of securing national revenue than the method practised to-day, where the Government go in for a pettifogging scheme of securing funds from the kiddies’ amusement shows. According to a pres3 report, our highly-paid income tax Commissioner, with his magnificent staff, will now be called upon to take a note of all the “ razzle-dazzles,” slippery slides, children’s railways and merry-go-rounds, and all other devices .whereby the public, young and old, are wont to amuse themselves.. If a child indulges in a joy ride on a merry-go-round, and pays Id. for hia fun, he will have to pay another Id. into the revenue of the Commonwealth. That should not be tolerated, especially when other sources of taxation have not been tapped. How is it that a man in Australia can own a vast estate, and not be called upon to pay anything into revenue, while a little child, engaged in harmless amusement, is compelled to pay as much again to the Government as he has spent upon his recreation?
The Government, of course, were returned to power in order to place the burden of taxation, not upon the shoulders of those .best able to bear it, but upon those least in a position to do so. I cannot find fault with that, of course, from their point of view. But the effect is that wealthy people are being allowed largely to escape, and the heaviest taxation is being imposed upon the poorer classes of the community. The law in New South Wales is such that, in submitting any proposal for public works, the Minister of Public Works in that State is under suspicion. I do not wish to convey the impression that any Minister for Public Works would be guilty of improper practices, but it is impossible for such a Minister to sanction tlie construction of any public work without at once rendering himself liable to misrepresentation. In the Albury Border Daily Mail of the 27 th of this month, there is a summary printed of the work done in the New South Wales Parliament on the preceding evening, in which the statement occurs -
The Minister for Works moved the expediency of introducing a Bill to sanction the construction of a railway and tramway from Dudley’s-road to Maroubra Bay.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing this Bill in referring to the legislation of the New South Wales Parliament.
– I wish to show that the absence of a land value tax in New South Wales is injurious to land settlement, to the State, and to the Commonwealth, and that an opportunity now presents itself to the Federal Government to so amend this Bill as to overcome the difficulty. The New South Wales Minister for Public’ Works moved a resolution affirming the expediency of constructing a railway and tramway from Dudley’s-road to Maroubra Bay. The construction of that line of communication is highly desirable and urgently needed. There are in New South Wales at the present time a considerable number of men out of employment, and many men returning from the Front will also desire employment. There is always a proportion of unemployed in all the large cities of the Commonwealth, and the construction of any public work, especially in a thickly populated area, may be highly desirable. The construction of a railway or tramway in such an area may be highly profitable, because it is in thickly populated areas that railways and tramways pay best. But what happened when this proposal was submitted in the New South ‘Wales Parliament? Whatever else Mr. john Storey, the Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, is supposed to do, it is not to oppose the expenditure of public money which will give useful employment to large numbers of artisans, mechanics, and labourers, and greatly convenience the public. Yet ‘ when this proposal was submitted I find from the publication to which I have referred that -
Mr. John Storey strongly condemned the proposal. He said it would open the door to the widest corruption.
Why ? What is there wrong about the construction “of a railway or a tramway along the coast?
It would enhance the value of land owned by certain people along the route.
Of course it would. It is inevitable that, tlie construction of a railway or a tramway, by making land more easily accessible, will enhance its value. The Federal Government do not propose to ask the owners of these lands to pay anything whatever in respect of the enhancement of value. The Government of New South Wales has. so far, never mustered sufficient courage to do so either. The result of this neglect is that the Leader of the Labour party in the New South Wales Parliament made the statement - :
It would enhance the value of land owned by certain people along the route. It was wrong to build tramlines when the country railways were hung up for want of money.
I do not say that country railways should not be built, but I do say that when it can be shown that a tramway or railway is urgently needed, and if constructed would immediately pay working expenses, tlie mere fact that its construction would enhance the value of land along the route ought not to prevent the work being undertaken. The difficulty might be overcome in the way I have suggested. If the New South Wales Government will not do what is necessary there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not annex some of the enhanced value given to property by the construction of public works. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of this debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to S p.m.
.- I move-
That in view of the early return to Australia of large numbers of the Australian Imperial Forces, and the necessity for placing them without delay in remunerative and reproductive employment, together with the need for settling such members thereof as are desirous of engaging in rural production in enterprises of an attractive character, the Senate is of opinion that -
the maximum encouragement should be given to soldier settlers engaging in occupations where the capital outlay is out of proportion to the immediate and prospective return; and
the works in connexion with the storage of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries should be proceeded with with all possible speed.
There is ample warrant for this motion, for the subjects to which it refers cannot be too widely discussed and ventilated in order that the best solution may be arrived at in the interests of the men and of the country generally.
The motion, in .the first place, directs attention to those returning soldiers who will settle upon the land to engage in primary production. The very nature of the occupations they will engage in will necessitate a heavy outlay of capital, and they will have to wait a number of years for a return, while incurring all the risks inseparable from any form of primary production. T have always felt that, in the wide field of primary production in this country, varied forms of enterprise, and even bravery, have been manifested. Some men go out into distant parts, far from means of communication and association with their fellows, to engage in pastoral, agricultural, or mining pursuits.- Others, following what they consider a safe policy, prefer to take no risks. Many of those in the first class have taken risks comparatively as great as those taken on the battlefield. Some of the pioneers have striven, as it were, to win the “Victoria Cross in the field of industrial effort, and it is for the sake of the men who will engage in- risky, uncomfortable, and laborious occupations, which at all times necessitate an outlay of capital, that I propose to put in a plea to-night.
In the second place, the motion draws attention to the necessity of providing land within the limits of the River Murray basin. At present, except in Western Australia, which has more Crown lands for settlement than all the other .States put together, there is very little land available for agricultural settlement in any of the States in the temperate zone. It is only because agricultural settlement began in Western Australia at a comparatively recent date that there is a large area available there for cereal growing and mixed farming. I will leave Queensland out of account for the present, because the production that oan be looked to there with any degree of confidence may be classed as sub-tropical.
I wish to deal now .with the primary industries that can be carried on in such States as New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. In all of them there is a great shortage of suitable land for the vast number of men who are coming back. One has only to ponder over this problem to realize the necessity of grappling with it boldly. The task in front of the Commonwealth and State Governments is unprecedented, hut not insurmountable. We are informed officially that about 10 per cent, of the soldiers who return to Australia will settle on the land. That means that we must provide for at least 17,000 men who are fitted for healthy physical labour in the shape of primary production. It “will tax tlie capacity of all our Governments to find at an early date suitable land of sufficient area to satisfy the requirements of that big number of intending settlers. In the last two years, according to the Ministerial statement, all the State Governments combined have succeeded in placing less than 3,000 returned men on the land. At that rate of progress, it will take eleven years before the last returned soldier who desires to take up land will be able to know where his home will be. That is a startling position, which calls for the serious attention of all who have the true interests of the soldiers at heart. Their deeds on the battlefield need no praise from any member of this Parliament. They speak for themselves. They have raised this country to a higher pedestal than it ever occupied previously. They have practically discovered Australia to a vast number of the peoples throughout the world. Very few thought that this terra incognita could send forth such a band of veteran fighting men. Those men, the cream of our manhood, are coming back to test the sincerity of our interest in them. It is up to us to do our very best to settle them in their former occupations, or in others where they will make steady progress and found happy homes for themselves for the rest of their days. They are not the kind of men who will look for spoonfeeding or coddling at our hands. They went away to do their duty at the call of their country, and fought to the last, while other men shirked to the last, and were defended to the last. They will be content with a fair and square deal. As they have shown themselves possessed of the finest qualities of manhood, I am sure we shall find them reasonable to deal with when we tackle the problem of settling them in their former or in new occupations.
I am concerned at present only with that section of our returning men who will undertake primary production. It is deplorable to think that only onetenth of 170,000 men will take up those pursuits.
– That estimate was given by me as being the minimum for which we could provide with any regard for prudence. I also said that that number would rise or fall as we made our land propositions more or less attractive.
– Evidently the honorable senator based the estimate on the number which he thought could be conveniently and satisfactorily handled. I am glad of his explanation, because, to me, it was deplorable to think that only 10 per cent, of our soldiers would take up primary production as their life occupation, while the other nine-tenths would shun the countryside. But even to settle 17,000 men will test the resources and statesmanship of every Government in Australia, Federal and State. The Federal Government are in the position of being the chief backer of these men when engaged in farming, mining, pastoral pursuits, or timber getting. They should, therefore, take it upon themselves toadvise the men as to the safest forms of production for them to enter upon. TheGovernment will virtually be in the position of a partner with them. The Government should exercise the greatest care in advising these men as to the occupation they should follow.
Our leading primary industries are cereal growing, stock raising, dairying, and fruit growing, with those allied to them, bee keeping, ;pig raising, and other minor occupations. In considering which industry should be recommended to our returning soldiers, it will be necessary to bear in mind how the various products have been disposed of, and what proportion is absorbed by the home market and what proportion is sent overseas. I have inquired into the position of these four leading , lines of primary production during the five pre-war years, and I find that farming, which includes wheat growing as its chief activity, employs no less than 235,000 persons, as compared with 90,000 persons engaged in the wool-raising industry. In the course of a few years wheat growing has so developed as to oust the wool-raising industry from pride of place in the Commonwealth. I have purposely avoided taking any account of the war periods for the purpose of my argument,, because the conditions have been so unsettled that it would be unfair to take- those years as a basis of calculation. I find that in the five years immediately, preceding the war the wool produced in Australia totalled £135,000,000, the value of the product exported was £132,000,000, leaving, to our shame be it said, only £2,000,000 worth of wool to be absorbed by the local market. For the same period the value of the wheat raised was £81,000,000, of which £40,000,000 worth was exported, leaving £41,000,000 worth to be absorbed by the home market. In the dairying industry, again, the home market proved most favorable. During the same period £92,000,000 worth of dairy produce was produced, of which £18,000,000 worth was exported, and £74,000,000 worth went into home consumption. Fruit in the same period was produced to the value of £15,000,000, of which only £2,000,000 worth was sent overseas, and £13,000,000 worth was consumed locally. Roughly speaking, therefore, half of the wheat produced was absorbed by the overseas market, and one half by the home market, during the five years preceding the war. In dairy produce, four-fifths of the value of production was consumed locally, and one-fifth was sent overseas; and in fruit, sixsevenths of the total product was consumed by the home market, and only oneseventh went overseas.
The freight question, too, is very important. As all who have studied the situation know, Australia, by her geographical situation, occupies a disadvantageous position compared with other countries, the freights from Australia to the consuming centres of the world. being probably the highest ruling anywhere. In the pre-war period the freight on wool was id. per lb., or 4 per cent, of the value of the article if we assume that ls. per lb. was fair value. In dairy produce much the same position prevailed. The contract entered into with the Orient Company for the conveyance of mails from Australia included a contract for the butter freight equal to 1/2d. per lb., a very cheap rate; and if we assume that ls. per lb. was the net value of butter exported, it will be seen that freight charges represented only about 4 per cent, of tlie value of the product. Fruit growing has not been so favorably placed, the average freight being 65s. per ton, and, allowing 23 cases to the ton, it means that if the price received was 5s. to 6s. ;per case, which was as much as the fruit-growers were able to get, freight charges represented over 50 per cent, of the value of fruit exported. These figures demonstrate the need for the development of the home market if the fruit-grower is going to get a reasonable return for his labour and capital outlay.
As the Government intend to come to the assistance of our returned soldiers, a certain responsibility rests upon them to advise soldier settlers as to the various occupations to be followed. Will they advise them to engage in wheat production ? I say at once that I would be chary about advising any considerable number of our returned soldiers to engage in that particular industry, -standing by itself, for, though it may prove profitable during certain cycles of seasons, and it is regarded as a white man’s industry, no business employing such a large number of men returns less reward on the capital and labour expended. Let us see what is required to enable a man to engage iri this industry. The Government propose to advance £500, and I say at once that it is hopelessly inadequate I have taken the trouble to ascertain about what amount of capital would be required as the first year’s outlay, the figures being based on the latest circulars issued by the people in the trade. If a soldier has made up his mind to engage in wheat production, and he is a married man, the first essential will be a decent shelter, because obviously it would be impossible to expect him to commence in a hessian tent or a bark shanty. He will have to be provided with a decent dwelling,- four-roomed house, which, at present prices would cost at least £200. Then it will be necessary to give him a water supply, and on any wheat areas at present available, either Crown lands or subdivided estates, this means money. The least provision that could be made would be to sink a 1,000-yard dam, which, at ls. 6d. per yard, would cost about £75. I quite realize that it might be done for ls. per yard in some places ; but that result could certainly not be achieved in Western Australia,
– The size of the dam is small, and the price for excavation is small.
– One can scarcely contemplate the construction of a dam of less than 1,000 cubic yards.
– - What I am suggesting is that the honorable senator is a little too moderate in his estimate.
– Next he would require at least six horses in order to work his holding and fully occupy his time. At £20 each, these would represent an outlay of £120. In addition, he would require a waggon, which would cost from £65 to £70. Then harness, tools, and gear would absorb £30, and he would require at least 2 miles of fencing to enclose 160 acres. This fencing would cost £46. A year’s food and clothing for himself and his family, upon the low basis of £2 per week, would mean another £104; fifteen bags of seed for sowing 50 acres, would involve an expenditure of £10, and 6 tons of chaff would cost £30. In other words his miscellaneous expenses would amount to £650. In the matter of plant and machinery, he must have a fourfurrow mouldboard plough, which, according to the price-list supplied to me by Mr. McKay, costs £46 cash to-day. He would also need a spring tooth cultivator, which would cost £32 ; a seed drill, which cannot be bought for less than £49, a binder, the purchase price of which is about £50; a 5-ft. harvester, which would cost £114; a set of harrows, which would mean an outlay of £8; and a small chaffcutter that could be worked by one horse, which would absorb a further £30. Here is a total of £330 for plant and machinery. If we add to it the miscellaneous expenses of £650, we get a total of £980, and if we allow £30 for incidentals, a grand total of £1,010 would be required before a man could engage in wheat-farming to-day.
– The honorable senator has not allowed anything for clearing the land.
– Exactly. My estimate does not include the cost of acquiring the land, clearing it, and of transport. I would ask Senator Grant to get the best practical farmer he can to look into these figures, and to point out if he can where they may be reduced by as much as a single pound. It is manifest, therefore, that so far as wheat-growing is concerned, the settlement of returned soldiers upon the land will absorb much more capital than is provided for under this scheme1. The areas available for wheat-growing are limited, and they are situated in’ inaccessible portions of the country. Consequently, wheat-growing is not an occupation for returned soldiers to engage in.
– How much does the honorable senator suggest that the wheatgrower should give for his land ? .
– Any quantity of land suitable for wheat-growing can be obtained in the Mallee country at a reasonable figure, and the same remark applies to Western Australia. But if one has to » purchase a portion of a re-purchased estate, he will have to pay anything from £l.to £4 or £5 an acre for it. If it be cleared land, he will have to pay, perhaps, £10 or £12 per acre.
– How many acres does a mau require?
– That depends upon the quality of the land. In my own State it i3 considered that a man ‘who engages in wheat-growing requires to possess at least 1,000 acres.
Necessarily it would not cost nearly so much to settle any man upon the land whose inclination led him to embark upon the dairying industry. In regard to fruit-growing, the major portion of the outlay required is expressed in labour. The plant needed upon a well-cared-for orchard ought not to cost more than £300 or £400. Stock-raising is an industry which may well be ruled out from the stand-point of our returned soldiers, because they could hardly expect to carry it on profitably with the limited assistance they can get, unless it were linked up with some other industry, such as wheatgrowing. I have, therefore, omitted it from my calculations, and have confined our choice to two of our primary lines of production. That choice is between dairying and fruit-growing. Now, in view of the fact that the home market is always available, and that it. absorbs such a large proportion of the products of these industries, it is surely worth our while to consider whether the Government would not .be acting wisely in suggesting to our returned soldiers that they should focus their attention upon these two lines, and these two lines only.
Of course, the future of these industries depends, to a large degree, upon the ratio which is maintained between our rural, and urban populations. Glancing over the figures, I find that during the past six years there has been a marked and progressive increase in our urban populations, as compared with our rural population That is a most unwholesome state of affairs. In Victoria ‘and South Australia more than 50 per cent, of the total population * is centred within the metropolitan areas. Another factor which will certainly have a big bearing on this matter will be found in the reply we get to the question, How are we going to treat our secondary industries in the future? “When we note the vast quantities of commodities which ive import from overseas, I believe that the policy of this country in the future will be, and ought to be, in the direction of granting greater encouragement to our secondary industries. This must inevitably lead to overcrowding in our very large cities. There may be decentralization in the direction of larger towns springing up all over the Commonwealth; but I believe that, at an early date, public policy will insist upon a radical reduction in the volume of the commodities that are imported from overseas. That will mean a corresponding lowering in the ratio of those- who ave engaged in primary production.
– It may mean an increase of population from primary production. -Senator LYNCH. - It is quite natural to assume that the public policy of this country will be so shaped as to encourage our secondary industries, and that means that the population of our cities and towns will be added to, out of proportion to the population of the country.
– That is the case now.
– Yes. That circumstance will, in turn, have a beneficial effect upon those engaged in dairying and fruit-growing. I especially refer to dairying, because there is an unlimited market overseas for the products of this industry, in addition to our local market. I say, therefore, that the two leading industries upon which the attention of returned soldiers should ‘be concentrated are those of dairying and fruit-growing.
– Do not lose sight of the fact that in fruit-growing one does not get an immediate return.
– That applies in a degree to every primary industry. Some people call us wheat-growers ; but I sometimes think we are more wheat-sowers. We put the seed in the drill, and that is sometimes the last. we see of it.
If I am right in assuming that the industries which I have mentioned are those upon which our returned soldiers should concentrate, the question naturally arises, To what localities may we look for that form of settlement? To me it appears that the place which offers the best attractions for dairying and fruit-growing at the present time is to be found within the Murray River basin. A vast area there is about to be brought under effective production by means of the irrigation system which has been agreed to by New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. In this regard I am speaking, of course, chiefly on behalf of that section of our returned soldiers who belong to those -States, because they really constitute a vast majority of those who have gone to the Front. Within the River Murray basin there is a magnificent area of very fertile soil. But our usual experience is that when we have land in abundance, we are beset with the difficulty of a water famine. Whilst it is true that in every State there is land of unusual fertility, the great trouble always experienced is that we have not sufficient water to moisten it and make it grow crops. An effort is now being made to right things within the tract I have indicated. The Murray River basin is the largest proposition of its kind which has been embarked upon in the Commonwealth. It embraces an area of 415,000 square miles, .or double that of France. Within this basin there is a large tract of good fertile soil, comprising about 50,000,000 acres of the finest land to be found in any part of the Commonwealth. But there is not sufficient water available within the Murray River system to adequately water even a fraction of that large area. It is not, generally speaking, a proposition of great magnitude. Certainly it is not, from the financial point of view. A sum of £4,600,000 has been allotted to complete the work. In the sparselypopulated State of Western Australia, less than 300,000 people undertook a work whose cost now amounts to between three and a half millions and four millions sterling. I refer to the goldfields water scheme. Judged on that basis, the proposition with respect to the River Murray is not of vast extent. The Western Australian water scheme, while it has almost remodelled life on the goldfields, has not served the requirements of anything like the population which will be supported by the Murray proposal. We have been informed that the area which the waters of the Murray and its tributaries will irrigate totals 1,400,000 acres. Allowing 50 acres to each person engaged in closer settlement in the Murray basin, there will be something like 30,000 holdings created by the proper utilization of the great waterway and its tributaries. Those 30,000 persons, directly rooted in the soil, and forming a basic industry, will in turn support a vast number; and, when the scheme is under full development, there will be probably 1,000,000 people established, following upon the original expenditure .of £4,600,000. This, then, will be a vastly more profitable enterprise than the Western Australian water scheme.
We must look to irrigation alone for the future expansion, of population in Australia. In the United States of America, fully one-third of the area is purely arid in character. Two-thirds lie reasonably within the humid zone. In Australia, men have been forced out upon areas where they should not have been allowed to settle. Latterly, the problem in the United States of America has been to make the arid zone more profitable. As a matter of fact, the soil is much more fertile than” the land within the humid zone. The scarcity of rain has caused the fertilizing properties in the soil to remain dormant. They have remained unused until water has been artificially supplied; and then the arid areas have proved far more productive than those lands which have been put to sustained use. In every State of Australia similar circumstances have been noted. In every State, also, we have seen that foolish policy of allowing men to get out on to the arid and semi-arid belt without the assistance of irrigation, while there are great stretches that could be effectively utilized if only we turned the rivers back upon the soil. The rivers should not be allowed to run to the sea, but run to the land. Irrigation is one of the problems which should engage the attention of the Commonwealth and every State Government. We might well anticipate the future in this regard. It has been clearly shown, in the reports of Royal Commissions dealing with the subject, that by irrigating the dry soils within the Murray basin production has been more than doubled. In places like Renmark and Mildura, the average cost for water service has been only 30s. per acre per annum. It is quite clear, then, that it must be very safe to apply an expenditure of 30s. to doubling the output for 1 acre. Mildura has a cultivated area of something like 12,000 acres, and it has produced £500,000 worth of products. Something like £40 per acre has been obtained from the Mildura land. Any one acquainted with that soil knows that there are millions of acres throughout the ‘Murray basin of even better quality.
I have previously pointed out how a community can spend money and reduce themselves practically to ruin, and yet, after a stated time,- recover all they have lost. When the population of the United States of America numbered about 25,000,000, civil war broke out. There was an enormous expenditure of lives and treasure, which brought about no result other than that brothers in the South shook hands with their brothers in the North. Thereafter the community had to face the liquidation of their debt. But they have done so.
We possess a semi-arid continent whose rivers flow from the interior into the sea. Can we not anticipate the future, and spend” something in turning back those rivers upon the soil ? We should have something more tangible to show for our expenditure than had the people of America. We might well pledge the credit of this nation to the proper utilization of those streams which to-day are flowing uselessly into the oceans.
– The sum of £4,000,000 would not provide sufficient water to irrigate the area of which the honorable senator has spoken.
– A total of £1,200,000,000 was spent to get brothers of the South to shake hands with brothers of the North in America; while we need spend only a fraction of that enormous sum to secure vast practical results.
As to the conditions governing the allotment of land to soldiers, I feel that those men who are looking to ns for strict justice are often being invidiously treated. I have been trying .to ascertain what the various State Governments have done. It is almost always a case of each working independently of the central authority, the Commonwealth Government. Victoria is about to provide holdings for soldiers. The maximum amount to be allotted to each individual is £500. That is to be expended in erecting a house, effecting improvements, buying stock, and, altogether, bringing the area into a state of production. But I am curious to know why> in this State, the returned soldier is placed on the same footing as a man who has not fought for his country. I am still awaiting specific information on that point. But it appears that any man, no matter whether he has been to the war or not, may present himself as an applicant for a block; and the only advantage the soldier has is that he gets preference.
– The Victorian Minister of Lands has said that there “is no land for either individual in Victoria.
– That is so. The Minister of Lands stated that the amount of Crown land available was a negligible quantity. The average price paid for land to be made available for returned soldiers in ‘ this’ State has been in the neighbourhood of £14 per acre.
– That is pretty solid.
– lt is, indeed. The Victorian Minister has admitted that the possibilities, so far as Crown lands are concerned, are practically exhausted. He has now turned his attention to repurchased estates and leaseholds, the leases of which will fall in in 1920. To rely upon the latter is suggestive of the saying, “ Live horse and eat grass,” I am not singling out Victoria for special mention in this regard. I believe that the conditions of things in the other States is not much better. I direct attention to the fact that in this State, and probably the same thing applies in the other States, apart from the advantage which a returned soldier “might secure by preference, any man who did not respond to the country’s call may obtain a block of land on just the same conditions as the returned soldier. Returned soldiers might concentrate their .attention upon the fact that the only advantage proposed to .be given to them by the State in connexion with their settlement upon the -land is that of preference for any blocks that may be available. I say that i’s a very flimsy advantage indeed. The Commonwealth Government are prepared to spend £500 to enable each returned soldier to settle on the land, but the State Governments apparently are not prepared to give the returned soldiers any more credit than they will give men who never ‘joined the Australian Imperial Force at all. I hope that that will- not be found to be the case ultimately, but, so far as my inquiries have gone at present, I am led to believe that it is the case.
We should be liberal to the point of generosity in settling returned soldiers on the land. Their claims upon us can scarcely be measured from the point of view of their personal worth and the services they have rendered the- country in the most crucial hour of its history. If we settle these men on irrigated areas, and such areas are the only places in which they are likely to be successful, the Security we shall have will be of such an absolute character that we can well afford to incur risks to give them the most generous terms. In the Murray River basin, in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, the spectres of droughts, floods, and fires whicli have confronted the settlers down the years will by the irrigation of the country have been banished entirely. We shall have men employed on areas upon which they cannot fail to succeed unless through their own fault. If we look into -the conditions obtaining at Renmark, Mildura, and the other settlements on the Murray, we shall find that the settlers there are exceptionally prosperous, and are looking forward to better prospects.
– Their prospects were very dark at the beginning.
– That was when they were embarking upon socialistic ventures. The more one considers the Murray River basin, the more he is satisfied that there is no better place to be found in Australia to-day on which to settle our returned soldiers, where they should be advised to embark in dairying and fruit-growing. The progress made at Mildura and Renmark is sufficient proof of this. One man at Wood’s Point said that he obtained 150 tons of onions from a 5-acre plot, from which he netted £600 in one year. Stories like that, which are to be heard in the district, make the mouth of the wheat-grower of the arid districts of Australia water.
– That return would be from reclaimed land.
– There is a vast area of land along the River Murray still to be reclaimed. There is room there for the settlement of 17,000 returned men, though I hope that the proportion of returned soldiers who will be willing to settle on the land will be very much higher.
When advising them to go there, the question arises as to when they may look for a return for their labours. The
Murray irrigation scheme will, according to various estimates, take from seven to eleven years to complete. This huge work is now in the initial stages. The problem to be faced is a serious one, because, for the sake of South Australia, it is necessary that the river should be preserved in a navigable state all the year round under natural conditions, and the /only way to make water available for irrigation is to push on with all speed with the big storage works at the head waters of the river. There is a proposal to provide a dam at a place called Coomberoona, with a capacity equal to double the capacity of Sydney Harbor. The completion of such a work as that is not a matter of months but of years, and possibly will run into six or seven years. The problem 13 to say how returned soldiers are to be settled on the land in the meantime, and my suggestion for- its solution is that a close investigation of the River Murray system should be made to find out where the most convenient land is, and .where the most permanent water can be secured, and to settle as many returned soldiers as possible on those areas who will be able to utilize the surplus waters without interfering with the navigability of the river. In the meantime, the huge works at the head of the river will be continued, and by the time that the surplus waters impounded there are available, the farms on which the soldiers will be established will have developed to such an extent that they will be in a position to utilize the maximum surplus supply available under the storage scheme.
These are my suggestions, and I say that the conditions under which land may be taken up by returned soldiers should be radically altered in the direction of greater liberality towards those men. I say that the man who clears land in the River Murray basin, or anywhere else, confers upon the country a public benefit. Uncleared land is a negative asset, but the moment it is cleared and made productive, it becomes a revenue-producing asset -to the taxing authority. What chance has the Commonwealth Government, the State Government, or local authorities, to obtain any appreciable revenue from land that is not improved? In its wild state it is no good to the owner, and of even less value to the State as a whole. Therefore, I say that, if returned soldiers take up land, especially where heavy clearing is necessary, they should be encouraged by speciallyfavoured treatment, and should be given the amount required for clearing without having to pay a single penny of interest. This is my proposal, and in putting it forward I say that it would be only placing these men on the same footing as the earlier settlers, who secured their land under very easy conditions.
There are new industries to which men may turn even in the River Murray basin. There are, for instance, the tobacco industry and the growing of beet for the production of sugar. I take, first, the tobacco industry, and it is a standing testimony to the lack of resourcefulness and of sympathy shown in this country for the encouragement of that industry that last year the records show that ; 1.8,000,000 ‘ lbs. of tobacco leaf were imported into this country. Only about onesixteenth of the quantity of leaf which was manufactured here was produced in this country. That is a condition of affairs which should be altered quickly. The Interestate Commission inquired into this matter recently, and with certain qualifications they arrived at the conclusion that the tobacco industry is not flourishing in Australia because there is practically only one buyer of leaf here, and growers of tie leaf have to sell their crops at the price he is prepared to pay for it. This is a white man’s, industry, in which a large population is engaged in the United States of America. If tobacco -can be grown successfully by white people in America, there is no reason why it should not be grown with equal success here, where we have the soil and climate suitable for the purpose. This is the significant position discovered to exist by the Inter-State Commission. I quote from page 5 of their report, issued in 1915. They say -
It appears that certain leaf produced to the Commission and grown at Ashford was sold to the British Australasian Tobacco Company Limited for ls. 3d. per lb. According to the company’s buyer the lowest priced imported leaf cost9 7d. without duty, i.e., 2s. Id. with duty. Yet the Ashford is described by the same witness as “ a beautiful leaf,” and was universally classed by witnesses as high grade. So, too, certain leaf grown at Manila was “ a very good tobacco,” yet it brought only ls. per lb. How does ii come about that “very good” leaf and “beautiful leaf “ grown in Australia only realized ls. and ls. 3d. respectively as against 2s. Id., duty paid, for the lowest-priced leaf imported ?
That shows what might be in front of the returned soldiers if they embarked in this industry. But the Government might insist upon buyers paying a certain price for leaf, and if that did not succeed there would be the alternative, which I should certainly favour, of the Government taking over the industry and running it in the interests of the people. To show what might be done in this industry I have here a sample of leaf known as lemon bright,” which was grown on the King River, at Wangaratta, and is declared by experts to be equal to the best leaf grown in Virginia. This leaf was grown in the Murray basin, about which I have been speaking, in a district where men made a competence in the past, and where witnesses told the InterState Commission that tobacco was more profitable than any other crop.
The beet sugar industry should also be given attention.’ I realize that when I mention this I may tread upon the corns of those interested in the sugar cane industry in Queensland. I realize, also, that it is only by the adoption of a sympathetic policy that even the area of good country on the Queensland littoral can be turned to practical account, and I would go far and hesitate much before I would do anything that would be the means of rendering the sugar industry of Queensland less properous for those engaged in it, or less staple in character. But it should be remembered that fruit-growing, dairying, wheat-growing, and other primary agricultural industries have not the protection which is given to the sugar industry. There are vast areas on which sugar-beet can be grown in Victoria and New South Wales, and I believe in South Australia, for the national benefit.
The carrying of this motion will mark a distinct step in advance if it hastens the conservation of tlie waters of the Murray, and makes available vast areas of arid land for the use of our population. That is no mean venture, and we must face it in a true spirit, following up the enterprise in other parts of Australia by utilizing the waters there to make land, now barren and unproductive, responsive to man’s necessities. Much will have to be done. The first essential is to cultivate a firmer faith in our own country.
– Howare you going to do it?
– This is one way. Owing to faulty public policy, lack of enterprise, and toleration of a monopoly, we are importing £1,200,000 worth of a material in the shape of tobacco leaf, which could be grown here, as it is grown by white men at good wages in the United States of America. We must also revive that progressive and pioneering spirit which has flagged so much in late years. Lastly and most important, we must recreate an intelligent and tolerant spirit of co-operation in the field of industry. If we do not do this, paralysis and confusion stare us in the face. Let us look around and see the magnificent country we hold, a country that requires only to be tickled to yield all that man wants. We should take stock of the position before we proceed further along that road of indecision and folly which it has reflected no credit upon us to follow so long in the past. In industrial matters, we have been passing through parlous times, with employer and employee continually grappling at each other’s throats. If we perpetuate those conditions we shall have to see to it that we do not weaken the credential that we have for holding this country. We can continue to hold it only by effective occupation and full use. We dispossessed the primeval occupants of Australia, saying to them, “ Get off the earth, you are not making the use of this country that we are prepared to make.” We thrust them off the earth, with often a rough and ungentle hand, although they were the sovereign and primitive owners of this country. If by a continual and deliberate policy of bickering and dissension we drift into the same position, we shall simply be steeling our designing enemies in their resolve to bear down on us and tell us what we told the aboriginal population. We have a vast unpeopled interior, with a population sown thinly around . the coast line, and the teeming populations of other lands are looking on us with hungry eyes. In our public and private capacity we must so act as to render unchallenged and unchallengable our title to hold this land - our only charter of ownership. Effective occupation of our interior should be the keynote of our public policy, and it is meet that a band of our soldiers should help us to put that policy into operation. They have upheld our honour and good name on the world’s battle-fields, and it is appropriate that they should come to our assistance in developing the interior of the Commonwealth. I hope that when we send them out to this task, the maximum of justice, and even of generosity, will be extended to them. I shall be content if the motion is the means of ventilating and holding up to view from every angle the very important problem of the settlement of our returning soldiers on our country areas, so that a full measure of justice may be given their.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Grant) agreed to-
That a return be furnished to the Senate showing - (I) What are the classes of goods the importation of which has been regulated; (2) What quantity of such goods is at the present time in Australia; (3) What was the average cost of such goods - (a) Prior to August, 1914; (b) At November, 1918; (4) Whether the regulating of the importation of such goods will have the effect of increasing prices; (5) What are the names of the firms or persons trading in these goods?
Debate resumed (vide page 8486).
– One of the most serious drawbacks now in evidence in New South “Wales, through the absence of land value taxation, is the extreme difficulty of procuring housing accommodation for returned soldiers, and for people who have been resident there for many years. There are other contributory causes, but the cost of land is so high as to place the purchase of a building block almost, if not altogether, beyond the ability of the ordinary worker. A man in intermittent employment at £4 per week, by the time he makes provision for himself and family, will find it will take him the best part of his life to purchase a 50-ft. block of land worth £4 per foot, which is the approximate value of land within a reasonable distance of Sydney. Considering that there are 3,000,000 square miles of land in Australia, a 50-ft. block is not very much for an Australian workman to live upon. That condition of affairs is entirely due to the fact that the State Government will not deal with the question of land value taxation, and the Federal Government have indicated ho intention in this Bill to deal with it effectively either. That is much to be regretted, aud I point out this great handicap to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in particular. Large bodies of nien are giving up their time, talents, money, and abilities to the construction of houses for returned soldiers at various parts around the Sydney metropolitan area. They are doing a considerable amount of work, but it is not much more than a drop in the ocean. What is required there, and, in fact, throughout the Commonwealth, is facilities whereby men who desire to make homes for themselves will not be handicapped. One of the main handicaps is the price which must be paid for land, and I should like the Government to amend this measure to make it unprofitable for any one to hold on even to building blocks unless he makes a substantial contribution to the Commonwealth revenue year by year. If we can accept the evidence furnished to the InterState Commission, the position of affairs in Melbourne is practically the same as in Sydney, and I ha/re no doubt it is similar in the other States. In South Australia many years ago steps were taken by the then rulers of the State to make it more difficult for new arrivals to procure land suitable for settlement. Up to that time land could be procured in that State for 10s. per acre. It was very soon found that workmen who came to South Australia, rather than work for others, preferred to become land-owners themselves, with the result that no labour was available. In order that labour should become plentiful, the astute old gentlemen who ran the show there put through an Order in Council, or other measure, automatically raising the price of land to £1 per acre. The immediate effect Was to curtail the opportunities of workers to secure land for themselves by making it more costly, and at the same time to make labour more plentiful. That has been the policy, not only in that State, but elsewhere. Efforts have been made at various times in South Australia to make lands more readily available by means of a tax upon values ; but so far they have not been very successful. Many years ago, the Government passed a local government measure, but had it so circumscribed with regulations, that only a small number of local government bodies were able to take advantage of its provisions; with the result that, even in Adelaide and its suburbs, it is by no means easy for working men to possess their own homes. I paid a visit to that city recently, and I have no hesitation in saying that some of the houses there are a disgrace to the community. They are built upon narrow frontages and shallow depths, and, generally speaking, the streets are narrow, and quite unsuitable to the Australian climate. In a place like South Australia, it ought to be mandatory that all building blocks should be of a reasonable size; but in many cases this is not so, owing entirely to the fact that local government taxation in South Australia enables the owners of land to escape taxation upon the basis I advocate. The South Australian Land Tax Bill contains no exemption at all, but the tax is only 1/2d. in the £1. Earlier in the evening, I mentioned that the Government of that State proposed to tax a “ razzle-dazzle,” Id. for every Id. that a child might pay; and yet they only impose a tax of id. in the £1 on land values for State revenue purposes. It is quite true, of course, that they have adopted the German method of having a progressive land tax; but it is not a very troublesome progression, because it only makes one progression at £5,000. The provision is as follows: -
The taxes on land shall toe the following, namely: - (I.) The land tax, at the rate of one halfpenny for every pound sterling of the amount of the taxable value of the land; (II.) an additional land tax of one halfpenny for every pound sterling exceeding the amount of Five thousand pounds of the total assessed unimproved value of all land owned by any party; and (III.) an absentee land tax of 20 per centum on, and added to, the amount of land tax and additional land tax payable in respect of land owned . by absentees.
That is the full amount of land taxation in South Australia. Does any one imagine such a tax will make land readily available? Certainly not.
We hear of the difficulties of securing land, and we are told of various projects put forward by the Government for the purpose of making land available for soldiers. But, I ask, why do they not do the correct thing? Why do not the Government realize that there is only one way of facing this position ? . Why do they not make it impossible or inconvenient for any man to own land unless he uses it? I would not mind if we had to spend £70,000,000 a year for many years to repatriate the soldiers who have fought for Australia; but I say this work would be better done if the Government would adopt the right policy, and tell the owners of the land that if they are not going to use it, they will have to make way for men who will. Under the mining laws of New South Wales, as the Minister of Repatriation (Senator Millen) knows, if a man opens up a gold-bearing area, he may peg out his claim and commence to work upon it; but if he does not work it satisfactorily within a certain number of days, any other person who is willing to work it may come along and “ jump “ the claim.
That is an idea that ought to be incorporated, as soon as possible, into the land laws of this country. If people will not use land themselves, they have no right to hold on to it year after year and prevent men, who went and fought for Australia, from earning a living upon it. Talk about irrigation. Suppose the Murray were dammed. What would happen? I do not know of any Crown lands between Albury and the South Australian border that could be benefited by this scheme, unless by some of the tributaries of the Murray. I know there are some excellent properties for which the owners would ask from £14 per acre upwards, but if a soldier settler had to pay interest on this amount, as well as upon the cost of’ making water available, he would be very heavily burdened. I doubt indeed if there is an honest desire on the part of any considerable number of people to give the returned soldier a fair show. I am quite satisfied, at all events, that unless the Government adopt the policy which I have outlined to make land available, not only for returned soldiers, but for other men as well, the scheme will not be successful.
Farming, like any other occupation, requires long years of experience. What would happen if a man with a long experience of boiler-making were required to take up a carpenter’s job? Of course he would not be successful, and likewise those who engage in farming occupations, in order to be successful, require long training and experience. I suggest to the Government that if they want to do the soldiers a really good turn, they should steadily keep in mind that the one way of doing it successfully is to make land readily available, not only for returned soldiers, but for any other per- son who desires to go upon the land. I say, without fear of contradiction, that the only way in which this can be done is by taxing the land so heavily that no man will hold on to it unless he puts it to its highest productive use. They are not doing it in South Australia. I do not believe the State Government have any intention in that direction. It must be remembered, furthermore, that they have a reactionary Upper House in that
State, a- Chamber which is- not likely to pass> any legislation of such a character as would interfere’ with their longinherited rights and privileges - the right to rob and fleece the South Australian workers and the inhabitants generally. If’ anything.” is going to be done to make land, available- for the people itmust be done- by the Federal Government, and it can only be done by the: imposition of. taxation. upon land values;
In Tasmania- the position is not very* much’ better It is true that a land’ tax’ of1d in- the£1- has- been in operation: for a limited’ number of” years.The tax there- is- graduated, and’ there is no exemption. For every£1 sterling- of the’ unimproved? value of land up to £2.500’ the tax is1d.’ in the £1.. For land valued from: £2,000 to £5,000,1¼d..; from: £5,000 to £15,000,1½. ; from £15,000 to £30,000;. 1¾.; from £30,000: to £50,000 2d:.; from: £50,000 to. £80,000,. 2¼d..;. over £80,000,’ 2½d This measure of land-value taxation! is easily understood; but it is altogether too small, especially on* the lower: valuesto make land available.
Let me stress the point that if the Government desire to make - land available for returned soldiers, estates worth £2,500 would probably besuitable. But if they persist in havinga high, exemption, the only effect will be to make land” more costly for the man. who owns no land! It might, and of course it would; involve lite- . payment of a small extra sum- by the man who at. present: owns land:; but for the man who does1 not- and that; I contend, applies to 95 per cent. of the returned soldiers - it is distinctly against his best interests to have a high exemption. The Tasmanian Government evidently have not intention of imposing taxation of such a character as to make land available. All local government taxation in that State is levied- on improvements; with the result that if you build homes for returned soldiers or for any other persons,, you are immediately pounced upon by the. local, governing, authorities and! called upon to pay further taxation. So. far as the. State Government is concerned, there is not much hope of settling, soldiers on the land in Tasmania. The wayout, so far. as I can. see, is. for the Commonwealth; Government to take the matter in. hand:
In the States, as we all know, there are Upper Houses, some of the members of which are elected on a property qualification, whilst others are elected” upon, a more liberal franchise. Others, again, are appointed for life for reasons which it would not be wise to mention publicly: These Legislative1 Councils are always prepared, to reject any proposal which would, make: land cheap, and available; either: to: returned soldiers or to anybody else. We recently had a glaring example ofthis fact in New South: Wales. There it was suggested’ that’, with a view to.- making.- land cheaper, the water and sewerage rate should be levied upon it. But did the- astute gentlemen, who: connposed the Legislative: Council of.that State acquiesce, in the proposal,? Cer.tainly not. Men like. Sir Allen. . Taylor, Sir. Thomas Hughes, and Dr. Nash denounced’ it’ as a confiscatory measure, and altogether it received such a reception- at their hands-that no more has- been: heard of- it.
– Are those- gentlemen landowners?
– I imagine that they are.
– Can the honorable senator tell me where Dr. Nash is interested in land?:
– I do not. know positively. Will Senator de Largie say that some of these gentlemen, are not largelyinterested in land values:?
– The honorable senator should not: drag. in. the names” of men unless he is certain of his facts.
– Dr Nash is one of the gentlemen who, opposed, the. measure of which I am speaking:
– That is not the question.
– He is one of. the men- who- have been appointed for life to. the Legislative* Council” of New South Wales, and he opposed a Bill which would have had the effect of. making land cheap to returned soldiers. He took advantage of his position to flout the- will of” the people.-. No doubt he would. do the same thing again. But ‘the members of this Parliament are elected upon a wide franchise, andthey are in a position to enact legislation which will have the effect of making land cheap to our soldiers when they return from overseas. We shall presently have to consider manyschemes, involving the expenditure of millions sterling, to secure the repatriation of the men who have fought for Australia. I do not object to that. ButI dosay that amuch more satisfactoryway of effecting our purpose would be to compel ‘the people who own the country to pay such a large portion of its taxation that they would notbe tempted ‘tohold on togood land unless they weremaking full use of it. Now, in order to make full use of it, they must work it, and in orderto work it they must employ labour.
We have been assured by-.some members of the Victorian ‘Parliament ‘that practically no land is availablein this State for the settlement of returned soldiers. I venture to say that there . are tens of thousands of acres of most. excellent land in ‘Victoria - land capableof ‘growinganything - which ‘is being held out of use because it is profitable to.so.hold.it. RecentlyI visited Mildura . and had a look alongthe Murray River . asfaras Merbein. As one who, in his younger days, was: settled upon the land, I do . not . hesitate to -say that at the . latter place . I saw landequalto anyin the Commonwealth. -I do notwonder that thesettlers who wereplaced there by theGovernmentare not prepared to dispose of their blocks for less than £70 per acre. In my judgment, : the land is cheap at that price. Now, the ‘Victorian Parliament is not likely to increase its land value taxation. This State has always been a strongly Protectionist one, thereby avoiding the imposition of ‘taxation on ‘the land-owners of the country. The land tax at present operating in Victoria is a very small one indeed. I think that it amounts to about 1d. in the £1. Of course, it is totally inadequate to insure that full use of the lands of the State which is so highly desirable. The Victorian Government will not move in this matter, and the desired change must, . therefore, be brought about by theCommon wealth Parliament. As an illustration of the attitude of the Victorian Government towards land-jobber in shires, &c, I maymention that : some years ago a Bill was passed in this State empowering municipalities to raise revenue by the taxation of land values only. But immediately afterwards the State Parliament passed another measure, known as the Land Valuation Act, which provides that until the whole of the lands in the municipalities have been valued, the municipalities shall -not be’ permitted to raise anyrevenue from land values alone. “So that, if a returned soldier buildsa home in this State withCommonwealth money, he is immediately pounced upon, and compelled to pay extra taxation. I think -that the Commonwealth would be justified in refusing to grant any moneyfor settlement in Victoria,or any other State inwhich men are compelled to : pay more taxation merely because they build homes for themselves. . I would . spend Commonwealth money only in those States . which do not levy taxation upon improvements placed upon the land. With all that the Victorian municipal councils can do, they cannot shake off the incubus to which I have referred. Irepea t that the Government should refuse to spendany public money in States like Victoria, ‘which ‘fine men for improving their properties. They should seethat it is expended in Queensland, NewSouth Wales, and portions of South Australia, where this practice isnot adopted.
In Western Australia there is. a. nominal land tax in operation. The Land Tax Act which Ihold inmy handwas passed on 30th June,1918. Prior -to. that a measure relating to land tax was passed by the Western Australian Parliamentin 1907. The latter provided for an exemption of £50 in the case of ‘city and . suburban blocks, and of £250 in country areas used for agricultural, horticultural, pas toral, or grazing purposes. Atthe present time, I understand that the rate imposed is1d. in . ‘the. £1. Does any honorable senator imagine that such a rate will have the effect of making the lands of Western. Australia available forsettlement? If the CommonwealthGovernment provides money for theerection of soldiers’ homes in that State, the soldiers who erect them will immediately be pounced upon under the obsolete Local Government Act, and fined in proportion to the amount of money that is expended on them. This is an infamous system, which ought not to be tolerated for a single day. Some very peculiar things happen in Western Australia. A few years ago the Government of that State provided the Midland Railway Company with more than 1,700,000 acres of land, and the company thereupon constructed a line of railway from Midland Junction to Geraldton. Now, when this Parliament imposed a tax on the lands of the Commonwealth, it taxed this company’s land in just the same way as it did the land held by a private individual. I asked a question in the Senate some time ago, and received the following information -
– Before that information is placed on record, I call attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– Some time ago I asked to be supplied with particulars of the area, the assessed value, the amount of tax imposed, and the amount paid by the Midland Railway Company Limited for the land which it holds in Western Australia, and I received the following particulars-; -
For the- years mentioned, the. total amount of tax imposed was £75,629 ls. Id., and the amount paid was £53,628 5s. Id., showing that there is an item of £22,000 16s. outstanding. It would be interesting to learn why this company, which owns 1,768,104 acres, has not been called upon to fully pay up its Federal land tax. I have been furnished with a report of the last annual meeting of the Midland Company. I shall read an extract for the particular instruction of those who so frequently assert that the land tax can be passed on. The Midland Railway Company, at any rate, has no hallucinations in regard to that. The report states -
The Federal land tax presses on us even more heavily than the State land tax, and I mentioned last year that we laid the whole case before Mr. Hughes, the Federal Prime Minister, at a personal interview when he wan here, when he gave us a most patient and courteous hearing, and, at his request, we subsequently embodied our representations in a memorandum, which we forwarded to him to Australia. We received a letter in reply, acknowledging its ‘receipt, and stating that it had been remitted to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, to see if anything could be done. That letter was received in July last, and we have had no further communication so far. The Federal Land Tax Act allows the taxpayer to deduct the value of improvements made, either by himself or his predecessor tin title, from the value of the land in arriving at the taxable value. … To summarize the difficulties with which the company is confronted through the exactions of the State and of the Commonwealth: The State having deprived us of from some £40,000 to £50,000 of gross traffic, levies a State tax on our lands of £1,476 per annum, while in Hoad Board rates and assessments .we have to pay a further £1,489 per annum. Since the passing- of the Federal Land Tax Act in 1910, down to 30th June, 1917, this company has been assessed for Federal land tax alone to the extent of £64,320, and for State land tax, £12,486; or for Federal land tax and State land tax for these seven years, £76,806. During the same period the whole income these lands have produced has been only £7,081, and we have actually had to pay a much larger sum than this for local Road Board rates alone, leaving no land income available for this stupendous land taxation. Was ever a land-grant . railway so victimized in a civilized country? I cannot believe it was ever contemplated, when the Federal Land Tax Act was passed, that the Federal land tax would penalize subsidy, lands as it is penalizing the lands of the Midland Railway. I think I am correct in stating that we are” the only land-grant railway in the whole continent of Australia, so that our position is unique vis a vis the question of land taxation. Our position as holding these subsidy lands is very similar to the position of the State itself. What would the State of Western Australia say, I would like to ask, if the Federal land tax were exacted from it at its highest graduated rate of 9d. in the £1 on the unimproved capital value of its unalienated State lands - those millions of acres of Government lands, which, pending settlement and disposal, arc meantime earning little or nothing? The State would not tolerate such Federal taxation. The case of this land-grant railway is precisely similar.
The man who says the land tax can be passed on will find no support for his views in the history of the Midland Railway Company. It is of opinion that this is a tax which cannot be passed on. Although there is a land tax in Western Australia, with practically no exemption, the cost of land is fairly high. The only thing to do, if it is desired to make cheap land available for soldiers, is for the Federal Government to take up the matter. Western Australia still persists in the idea of taxing improvements, the same as in Victoria and Tasmania, for local government purposes. In the latter State, if I had my way, no Commonwealth revenue would be’ expended until such a condition of affairs was altered.
In New Zealand, even before that immortal work of Henry George was circulated, Sir George Grey, as far back as 1877, introduced a measure to impose Jd. per £1 upon all land values, with an exemption of £500. But it created such a disturbance among the land-jobbers that the Government were defeated, and, when a fresh Ministry came into power, headed by Sir John Hall, the Act was repealed, and no collection was made. If the land tax could have been passed on, why did the new Government repeal the Act? They knew the tax could not be passed on, and so they, wiped out the Statute. Later, a Government headed by the Hon. John Ballance introduced legislation imposing taxation on land values, with an exemption bf £500, but vanishing at £1,500. They also adopted the German idea of making it graduated and complicated, and it has not had the good effect which was hoped for it. New Zealand is experiencing much the same difficulty to-day, in respect to the settlement of returned soldiers and others, as is Australia. New Zealand has succeeded, after long years of agitation, in establishing a fair system of local government taxation. It is working most satisfactorily, and no effort is made to revert to the old system. I am aware that the Government cannot interfere there, but I thought it well to point out what has been done in New Zealand.
I object to the idea that this Parliament should follow the lead of the British Parliament in taxation methods. Some things which the British people do are commendable, but certainly their method of raising local government or national taxation is completely out of date,, and is altogether unscientific. It presses most severely upon the workers of the community, and carefully avoids the taxation of those best able to pay it. I specially invite the attention of honorable senators, who so fatuously favour the methods adopted in Great. Britain to secure national revenue, to ponder upon the position of the workers in that country as described by Mr. Lloyd George. On the 17th September of this year, in opening the electoral campaign in Great Britain, Mr. Lloyd George said -
Recruiting statistics have revealed a higher percentage of physically unfit in Great Britain than in any other belligerent country, and that was a disgrace to a proud and prosperous country. Hundreds of thousands of men in their prime in the wealthiest country in the world were broken in physique, because they were underfed, ill-housed, and over-worked.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - Order! I ask the honorable senator to connect what he is quoting with the Bill under consideration.
- Mr. Lloyd George went on to say -
Perhaps some had been poisoned by excessive drinking, to which they had been driven by squalor.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– The last sentence I desire to quote is -
There must’ be a national effort to put this right.
What we need to do is to put these matters right. We are not, apparently, in such a bad position in Australia as they are in Great Britain, and the reason for that is that there are more open spaces here,- land is cheaper and easier to get, and a man can escape the landlord here very much more easily than he can in Great Britain. But if we had a respectable measure of land value taxation in Australia, a man might still more easily escape the landlord. A statement such as that which I have quoted, coming from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, should not be disregarded. What do they do in Great Britain to secure the national revenue ? It is humiliating to find that they derive from Customs and Excise taxation £105,700;000. It is a peculiar kind of Free Trade that collects at the Customs Blouse so much revenue. It is really not . Free Trade at all, but a moderately high revenue Tariff, the same as the Australian Tariff. We all know that the Protectionists in Australia -are always anti-land taxers, and are in favour of securing revenue by taxing goods imported from foreign Protectionists and low-wage countries like Germany.’ Another source of revenue in Great ‘Britain is estate duties, from -which £29^00,000 was obtained. Stamps brought £8;000,000 land tax and house duties -£2,600,000, income tax, including super-tax, £224,000,:0’00, Excise profits ‘duty £.180,000,000, and proposed additional similar -taxation £20,000.000.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order ! I ask -the honorable senator not to -debate the item-s of British taxation. .
– I ‘wish to -show that Great Britain is an -exceedingly -wealthy country. It is impossible to say what the lands of Great Britain are worth. The Government have never been able to arrive at their valuation. They are probably worth £5,000,000,000. They may be worth more. That is merely an estimate. And yet the British Government obtain from this enormous value by taxation the paltry sum of about £’3,000,000 a .year. One would think when, some years ago, Lloyd George was speaking, that he really meant to make the owners of Great Britain pay something towards the national revenue. One would think, to hear some members of this Federal Parliament speaking sometimes, that they intended to make the owners of Australia pay something substantial to the revenue of the country. But they do not mean what they say any more than did Lloyd George.. The present Prime Minister o? England has done nothing worthy of the name to make the owners of Great Britain pay a substantial sum to defray the cost of government. From what I can learn, the total ‘amount paid in revenue ‘from taxation by the land-owners of Great Britain is under £3,000,000 -a year. That is not even anything like so good as we have done in Australia. But we have not gone very far in this direction, and there is still very much room for this Parliament to proceed further on those lines.
Every effort made in Scotland to .’induce the-owners of land in that country to pay something towards the national re-, venue has been blocked by the British Parliament. I feel :certain that if they had had Home Rule in Scotland they would long ago have compelled the .lairds, dukes, countesses, duchesses, and other parasites who live and fatten on Scotchmen to pay something towards the revenue. A class of people of the same type as those to whom I have referred is growing up in Australia. There is .a Scotch company over in Tasmania called the Van Diemen’s Land ‘Company, the members of which are nearly all ‘Scotchmen, who will only -allow ‘Tasmanians to live there if they -will consent to pay them an ‘ -enormous price “for ‘a piece of .land. I was over at (Burnie a few months ago, and ‘I found that a ‘mam there could not get a piece of land suitable for a .home unless ‘be paid ‘the Van Diemen’-s Land Company £150 or £20& f ot a microscopic ‘block. “That- is not the only place in Tasmania upon which th’is company has fastened its . octopus grip. It” is ‘notorious that a great part of that country belongs to a number of Absentee “Scotchmen. I have little doubt “that they dragged the money by which, they ‘secured land in Tasmania from workers in ‘Scotland. They .gave but a nominal price for the land they have acquired in Tasmania, and now they are fleecing the Tasmanians in the same way. They cannot be beaten for that kind of work. But there ‘is a way to circumvent them, and they ought to be circumvented. It is well known that young men and young women in Tasmania almost invariably leave that State because of the way in which the land “is monopolized there, and come over to Melbourne, and gradually 3ind their way further north. They are .driven out of Tasmania by the operations of the Van Diemen’s Land Company and other similar -companies. ..Some time ago I read .’a speech by Senator Long, in which .he pointed out that the Tasmanian Government agreed to permit the people interested’ in Tattersall’s sweeps to conduct their business in Tasmania, and the legalizing of that business was immediately followed By a reduction in the amount paid by the- landlords of’’ Tasmania corresponding- to the revenue derived from Tattersail’s1 sweeps: I do not” blame the landlords of Tasmania so Jong as the people of that State are prepared to submit, to that kind of- thing1. But I do say that it is not fair that the? Van Diemen’s: Land Company should: be permited’ to drive Tasmanians away from “their own country, across to Melbourne-, andfurther north.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!. The honorable senator is repeating himself.
– Some- honorable senators do not seem to have grasped, the truth of my statement. It. is absurd to. believe that people will tolerate these things year after year. Here wehave a National Parliament, controlled by a National Government having, full power to do the right thing, and they are absolutely afraid to bring down a measure to compel the Van Diemen’s Land Company, and others like them, to use their land or sell it at a fair price to those who are prepared to use it. They will, listen to proposals to dam the Murray and. its creeks’ at an expenditure of millions in- order to still further increase the value of land privately held, rather than do: the right thing.
I do nob expect that the’ British- Parliarment will do very much to bring about good conditions in that country. The House of Commons to-day is dominated’, partly by the land-owning- interests1 and partly by those interested in the drink traffic: TheHouse of Lords is dominated in the- same way. ,
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I should like the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the Bill’.
– The fact is that we are rapidly producing, here conditions the very same as those which exist in Great Britain. Unless this question is tackled in a proper manner - and the weapon is at the hand of the Minister in charge- of this Bill - I feel that the same conditionswill be produced here which drove me out” of Great Britain.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that that was a- disadvantage to Great Britain?
– It may not have been a great disadvantage to Great Britain, but it was a great advantage to Australia and’ to me. Honorable senators should remember that to-day things are’ not quite what theyseem. The workers of the world will not tolerate this kind of business for all’ time. They have passed out the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Germany, and a. number of German Kings’, and . I am not- sure that they will not extend their operations still further. If it is desired to prevent some exceedingly sudden and radical’ changes, which might,afterallbea good thing, the Go~ vernment should, realize that it is not . fair to exempt from taxation the people who own the country.
I should like to quote- one or two extract’s to” emphasize what I have said. Owing, to the- conditions brought- about in Great. Britain by land monopoly, there is-“ a- shortage of” something like 500,000 houses in that country at the present time. The shortage there and in Australia is due almost entirely to the- extreme difficulty of securing a. block” of land sufficiently large to put a decent house on. In all our large cities the conditions surrounding the home of the average worker leave much to be desired. It is not fair that a man in this country; withits 3’,000, 000 square miles of territory, should be obliged to. live on: a 20, 30, or even 40 feetfrontage,. or that a man who works all his life should, be unable to purchase a block of land sufficiently large- to” make a decent home for himself and his family. The following extract from Land Values, a paper published in Great Britain”, for September”. 1918, shows what would happen in this country if this Government could’ be induced to impose a land tax which would make land cheap and plentiful : -
According to the House of Commons White Paper- 119 (1913 ), there are 2;533,053 acres of land within municipal boundaries in England which are” returned as agricultural land, and pay rates on that basis. Nor is that all. The return does not include London, nor does it include vacant land, which pays no rates, and therefore is not assessed. However, we have enough to be going on with. ‘
The place for farms is surely not within town boundaries, and I want to show what could be done if this land were built on. Taking the average family as five, and building bouses four to the acre, housing accommodation (or garden homes) could be provided for 50,600,700 people in England alone. Any of my friends who are allotment holders will readily visualize what it means to have onefourth of an acre for house and garden. My little war plot’ is a sixteenth-!
Think what a difference this would make to working men living in houses” crowded anything up to 50 (even more) to the acre. Most men at heart love a little bit of nature in the shape of a garden, and what it would mean to have house and garden combined can be well realized by the man who has to walk a mile or two - perhaps “humping” his tools - to his little cabbage patch.
Compare this with the garden of a friend of mine, who can step straight out of his diningroom window among his rose trees, thus having everything right under his eye. Here are strawberry beds, raspberries, currant and gooseberry bushes, plum trees, apple tree-, and pear trees - enough to supply wholesome, fresh fruit and home-made jam all the j ear round. He can grow cucumbers, early peas and tomatoes, and has his “ first boiling “ of early potatoes before most of us have finished planting. Rose trees, pansy beds, carnations, and any variety of flowers and plants he can grow. And what my friend can do, so every working man ought to be able to do, and nothing less should satisfy him.
A sweet, clean, healthy home life, lived in tune with nature ; happy, care-free children under the direct influence of their parents - a mutual benefit ; a shorter working day - say six hours - so that a man may have leisure to enjoy life and opportunity to exercise the functions of his body and mind and soul; the gradual capitalization of -their own industries by the producers, somewhat on the lines of the co-operative societies; the total abolition of any form of - indirect taxation, and the gradual absorption of land values from private pockets into the communal purse.
– I can show you places in Australia where those conditions obtain to-day.
– I could show the honorable senator, places by the score in Adelaide where the opposite obtains, lt is no credit to Adelaide or to the members who come from it that they are afraid to speak out the truth that is in them. I examined some places in Hindmarsh, a suburb of Adelaide–
– Sydney is as bad, and it has yoU
– I know it is, but it is not so with my consent. I never miss an opportunity of condemning those conditions, but Senator Senior and Senator Newland never miss an opportunity of sneering at any one who dares to raise his voice against land monopoly. At Hindmarsh and other places I have seen houses one after the other with narrow frontages, shallow depths, and a miserable footpath about 3 feet wide down one side. No one would live in those places, which remind one of a Cats’ Close, or a Murderer’s Alley, if he could get the opportunity to secure cheap land. Men like Senator Senior and Senator Newland stand by those conditions, and barrack year after year for the land jobbers and land monopolists of this continent.
– The honorable senator must have gone ‘to the slums.
– There are slums in Adelaide, as the honorable senator knows too well. There are plenty of slums in Melbourne and Sydney, and those who are responsible for them are of the same kidney as those who try to interrupt me here when I bring forward a proposition which would wipe the slums out.
The landlords in Great Britain own the railways, breweries, telegraphs, mines, quarries, ships, rivers, and, I think, even the telephones. One cannot fish there without running the risk of a prosecution for trespass. Some honorable senators desire to bring about those conditions in Australia, and it is time they were put in their -proper places. . In some of the Australian States the timber reserves are so monopolized by a few individuals that the cost of building material is beyond all reason. That is brought about by the apathy, indifference, and carelessness of men like Senator Newland and Senator Senior, who desire to see repeated here the conditions which .brought about the deplorable results mentioned lately by Mr. Lloyd George.” The trade union people in England have taken the matter in hand, and expressed! themselves in no uncertain manner. They carried the following resolution recently : -
That the whole system of land taxation should be revised so that effect should be given to the fact that the land of the nation, which has been defended by the. lives and ‘sufferings of its people, shall belong to the nation, and be used for the nation’s benefit. That is not the kind of resolution that would be carried by Senator Newland or Senator Senior, who are content to live in the slums, and to see other people live there.
– They are going to have a Fair Rent Court in Western Australia. That will prevent you from rackrenting your tenants at Subiaco.
– On a point of order, is Senator Lynch in order in applying the term “ rack-renter “ to Senator Grant?-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Shannon). - I heard no such remark, but if Senator Grant regards it as offensive, I shall call on Senator Lynch to withdraw it.
– No one minds remarks coming from that quarter.
– In case the honorable senator should feel offended, I unqualifiedly withdraw what I said.
– I am sorry certain honorable senators, in an endeavour to perpetuate in Australia the conditions which have disgraced Great Britain, persist in’ interrupting me.
The following, which also comes from Land Values, shows a state of affairs that may be reproduced here : -
In 1908 the .Admiralty purchased a site near Greenock of about 10 acres of land with foreshore as a site for a torpedo depot in connexion with a new torpedo range. The value assigned to that site for rating was £11 2s. a year, but the Admiralty had to pay f 27,225 for it, or 2,452 years’ purchase of that annual value of rating. ,
To a large extent, that sort of thing has happened already in Australia. It is quite impossible for a Government in this country to purchase land from private owners without being at once accused of giving more than its true value for it. If they desire to avoid accusations of that kind, all they have to do, as Senator Millen knows, is to impose land value taxation on the true rental value of land sufficiently heavy not to leave much rent attached to it. Even in South Africa the idea of taxing land” values is becoming quite common. Johannesburg, one of their largest cities, .has resolved to impose all its rates on land -values, at, I think, 6d. iu the £1. Iu places like Melbourne, any one who builds a house is taxed on his improvements, but there you can build as much as you like, and no further taxation is imposed on you. That system has worked most satisfactorily. It has been applied even in Malay. The following is an extract from the Standard of the 15th October, 1918: “ Can an example be given of any place that has had all expenses paid from unimproved values ? “
Perhaps the most interesting instance that we oan give is from the Standard of 15th June, 1907. Ex-Senator Staniforth Smith, who had been travelling iu the East, on his return to Australia published a statement with reference to our northern neighbours. Thirty years ago they were savages; now building railways out of revenue.
Tlie northern neighbours referred to are the Federal Malay districts amalgamated about thirty years ago under a British Administration on the Crown colony plan, and occupying the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula, just across the Malacca Strait from Sumatra. The area is about the same as that of Tasmania. “ Thirty years ago these States were practically unexplored jungle, inhabited by halfsavage tribes. Now these same States have 1.586 miles of metalled roads, 1,000 miles of cleared tracks and bridle paths, 421 miles of metre-gauge railway, with subsidized motor-car services to outlying places, and 1,231 miles of telegraph and telephone lines. They have 24a State schools, 31 free hospitals, and 2 savings banks. They have rest-houses (practically State hotels) at every railway station. They have a State medical service, a military force of . i;42 men, and a fine body of police, numbering 2,65] . Incredible as it may seem, they have no public debt, but have, on the contrary, millions of dollars of surplus revenue invested in interestbearing, securities. They are at pre-ent bunding another 152 miles of railway out of revenue. Lastly, they have magnificent public buildings, also paid for out of revenue.”
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Shannon) . - Order ! The honorable senator is getting very wide of the” subject. He is in order in making passing reference to the legislation of the Malay States, but not in debating that subpect.
– It is only a short extract, Mr. Deputy President, and I wish to conclude. The extract continues - “But how is this done? “It is not done either by ‘ scientific Protection ‘ or a ‘ revenue Tariff,’ for this astonishing federation imposes no import Customs duties except on spirits and opium, although it does lax its exports.
It is done by taxation ofthe unimproved value of land. : Out of a total revenue, for 1904, of £2,225,000, no less -than £1,700,000 was real of . land. The States . havenot parted With the fee-simple of one acre of . their territory. “ These States -are ‘booming, while Australia stagnates.Hethat hath ears to hear let him hear.”
I should like to refer to what has been done in Canada, in the province of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver, but time will not permit.
There is a desire also to know sometimes what is the attitude of the trade unions in regard to this matter. Recently it engaged “the attention of the trade unions of ‘New South Wales. I regret to know that Senator Millen and Senator Pearce are not so enthusiastic on this subject asthey were some years ago. Senator Pearce, in years gone by, was really very . sound upon this question, and at our Labour Conferences he would move the resolution, “ That in the opinion of this conference, a legitimate straight-out land value tax should be imposed without graduations or exemptions.” Thenhe would make a brilliant speech in support ofthe motion to convince bis -co-idelegates. The return furnished tothe Senate some time agowas, I believe, compiled ‘from information honestly supplied, but I do not think it is even approximately correct.Ithink -that instead . of £345,000,000 worth of land under £5,000 in value untouched bytaxation, the value : is . nearer £900,000;000, or, perhaps, £1,000., 000 , 000, and it as regrettable to thinkthat Senator Millen and Senator Pearce, now that they are on the Ministerial side. of the Senate, are prepared to getrevenue from any other source so longas they do not have to touch these lands. . It will he almost impossible, . under . present conditions, for a returned soldier to obtain ahome here. Most of what is being done bythe Government is so much camouflage.
The following resolution was carried at a meeting of trade unionists in Sydney -
That in the opinion of this Congress exemptions in the State and Federal land tax planks should, in the best interests of the workers of Australia, be eliminated, -with a viewto the imposition of land value taxation without exemption or rebate.
That was moved at the instance ofthe Australasian Society of Engineers, and ‘it was indorsed by probably what was . the largest conference , of trade unionists ‘held in Sydney, and for the following reasons : -
I should like now to quote a brief extract from Tike Worker newspaper. Only rarelydo weget anexpressionof opinionuponthis subject from that journal. The Worker, on the 21st June, 1917,. stated- -
It is for the reason that land has no value save what it derives from the presence and enterprise of the. community, that private ownership of land is a denial of the -barest elements of justice and the fertile source of social evils. The land tax- seeks to remedy this fun:damental wrong, and its effectiveness is to be measured by the extent of its- advance towards its logical end, which is the complete expropriation of the community-created values. The ideal land tax will, therefore, carry no exemption.. It will insist upon the restoration to the people of everything which people have put into the soil. - No honest’ worker should* fear the. land tax, but should welcome it as a guarantee that the whole fruits of his industry shall be his. It is the farmer’s best friend-1 - his sole hope- of security from the curse that has come down from the dark days of feudalism, the curse that chains the tiller of the soil to his plough, and drives him, with the ship of necessity, to labour for a merciless taskmaster - the curse- of. landlordism An exemption - at whatever figure it may be placed - plays into the landlord’s hands. It- renders the continuance of. monopoly possible, even inevitable.
I am glad to get that- expression of opinion from such -a widely-circulated newspaper as The Worker, and I should like, if time permitted, to quote at considerable length from a number of other documents which I have-,, but’ I do not wish: to encroach too much- upon the time of the Senate. I remind the Senate that when the Czar of Russia freed some 15,000,000’of people in 1860, he gave each of them a little bit of land’, which, I think, they have held on to from that day to this. It is. a good idea.
T desire, now to refer to- something- that was said at the Perth Labour Conference in June last. That Conference dealt with land value taxation among other masters, and- it is as well I should place its opinion upon record. I do not purpose reading the whole of the debate that took place on this question, nor do I wish to refer to the Swan or Monaro byelections, which have taken place since then, and at both of which the Labour party -were successful. The Perth Conference was attended by thirty-two delegates from the various States; and a proposal was made that the policy of Labour in the future should include land value- taxation without exemptions. The conference report states -
Mr. GREALY (S.A.) said that he would move the resolution, and was glad of’ the opportunity to do so. South Australia, had not altered its views on this subject, and he and his co-delegates had been instructed to do their best to have the ?5,000. exemption deleted’. Amongst thinkers it was agreed that the people- of a country created the land values, and not the owners of the land. Therefore the land was a. legitimate source of taxation in the interests of the people: The principle of land taxation being fair, it was fair that it should apply to all taxable- land without exemption.. .It was understood at the time- that the ?5,000 Federal, exemption was agreed upon that the- States’ should’ be allowed- to tax below that, amount, but there were States where this was not being carried but. About this time last year there was an interesting return showing unimproved value of freehold estates furnished at the instance of Senator Grant in the Senate. A perusal of that document showed that the unimproved value of estates in- Australia was ?455,876,104. South Australia’s share- was set down at ?45,10S,107; but South Australia’s values were really about ?62,00.0,000. If delegates would scan the figures of the return they would see that the whole of the lands of Australia: were held by 718,569 persons, which meant that with Australia’s population, at 4,895,894, there were 4,177,325 people in the Commonwealth who were landless. One of the reasons given for the passing of the Federal land tax, with its exemption of ?5,000, by the Federal Labour .party, was that, it was intended to burst up large estates. But had it done so?
Mr. Catts. To some extent.
Mr. Grealy. The object of tlie Act to break up large estates and put them into more extended use had been defeated by- landed families subdividing amongst themselves. However, coming to the main question, he maintained that there should be no exemption, and that if it were right to tax above ?5,000, it was just as right to tax below that’ amount.
It is very doubtful indeed whether a large amount of bogus subdivision has not taken place under the operation of the Federal land tax. In every one of his reports the Land Tax Commissioner refers, to this question, and I believe he is of the opinion that a considerable amount of dummying has occurred under the operation of the tax, merely with a view to evading its higher incidence.
Mr. Whitford (S.A.), in seconding the resolution, agreed with Mr. Grealy that if it were right to tax above ?5,000, it was equally right to tax below it. He had a small block of land, and he saw no reason why it should not be just as subject to taxation as a larger area. The principle was the same. He considered that the margin below . ?5,000 had not been taken advantage of by some of the States. This was essentially a Federal question, and could be dealt with by a Parliament elected on a democratic franchise, such as existed in the Federal arena. He felt it was only through the Federal Parliament that proper land taxation could be imposed, because whenever democratic land legislation was sought in the States, there were always the Legislative Councils ready to block such measures. Australian soldiers were returning, and when the war was over would return in large numbers. It was necessary, therefore, to get revenue from the land in proper proportion so that soldiers could be assisted, and so that production and development could proceed apace.
There is nothing wrong with arguments of that kind.
– There is not a single large estate within the good rainfall area in South Australia to-day. This condition of affairs has been brought about by the operation of the land tax.
– According to a return furnished to the Senate, and compiled from the war census cards, there were in South Australia a year or two ago, 3,154 estates of over ?5,000 value, and these estates represented a total value of ?14,666,2S0. When we reflect that this valuation was compiled from information supplied by the land-owners themselves, under the impression that the tax was to be based upon their own valuation, we may be quite sure that it is not an unduly high one. In these circumstances it is perfectly futile for SenatorSenior to attempt to induce this Chamberto believe that there are not any large estates in South Australia.
– The majority of them are large estates in King William and Rundle streets.
– Quite one-third of the land values of the whole of South Australia are held in estates of a greater value than ?5,000. I do not mind whether those estates are in Rundle-street or elsewhere. They are, nevertheless, large estates. But I doubt the accuracy of Senator Newland’s statement. I shall be glad if he will furnish me with particulars of the area held in the rural portions of that State.
– The honorable senator said that they are large estates.
– So they are. Now, listen to the arguments of Mr. Collins, of Queensland, in reply to Mr, Grealy -
Mr. Collins (Q.) affirmed that as long as we had State Parliaments, so long must those Parliaments be given the opportunity of raisingre venue by taxation through certun sources
Whoever denied the State Parliaments the right to raise revenue from certain sources ? The Queensland Parliament has full power to levy taxation upon land, either with improvements or without them -
Mr. Grealy had shown that in South Australia they had a flat rate of a halfpenny in the pound only, and because that State had not done better, Mr. Grealy immediately wanted the Federal Parliament to rush in.
– It is a progressive tax, and not a flat rate.
– I pointed out earlier in the evening that it is a flat rate up to a certain point. It is a progressive tax with only one step in it.
– That is not correct.
– I gather, from the most recent South Australian Land Tax’ Act, that the tax starts at?d. in the ?1, and increases at ?2,500 to1d. in the ?1, at which rate it remains. Mr. Collins then continued -
In fact, they had the stiff est land tax in Queensland-
Mr. Filhelly. ; And the most scientific, too.
Mr. COLLINS. ; And the most scientific, too. In Queensland, there was a super tax above a certain amount. It was a lack of courage on the part of the Federal Government, which, in passing the land tax, had failed to deal effectively with the large owners. Vast estates had not been properly burst up, because the Federal land tax had not been high enough, and he hoped that when Labour next struck Federal power there would not be the same timidity shown with respect to the big land monopolists. On this present question, he was against the resolution submitted, holding that the States should have the right to deal with the matter involved.
These are the statements that pass for arguments. Here is a Queensland Minister telling a conference of workers that the States should have the right to deal with this matter. Of course they should, and they have that right ; but we all know that they have not dealt with it effectively. Just fancy anybody remarking about South Australia “dealing effectively with land value taxation by imposing a tax of id. per £1 1 It is so small that persons would scarcely bother to pay it, and it could not mean any substantial addition to the revenue.
– It has broken up the large estates.
– They have not been broken up by the tax in South Australia. The other delegates to the conference discussed this matter at very considerable length, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that the arguments against the proposal advanced by, them were no more sound than those put forward by Mr. Collins. For instance -
Senator. O’Keefe wanted, to discuss tlie question of the exemption from the point of view of fair play. The. delegates who spoke against the exemption were not logical. ‘For instance, would not these gentlemen cry out if Labour members proposed to abolish the exemptions of lower-paid people under the income tax?
Of course they would, but an income tax is entirely different from a land values tax. Value is given by the community to the individual who owns the laud.
– Not all .of it.
– All but an infinitesimal amount. Income on the other hand depends entirely on the energy of the individual.
– The honorable senator cannot discuss the income tax again. He has already had an opportunity of discussing . it to-day.-
– I am glad to say that Senator Barnes and Mr. Holloway were on the right side in this matter, but other gentlemen who dealt -with it used arguments which appear to me to carry no weight whatever. Mr. Shoobridge, however, held that whatever was necessary in taxation of this kind could be done by the . States.
– I ask the- honorable senator not to continue that line of argument.’ He has already dealt with this- matter, and I ask him to apply new arguments to the subject.
– The trouble is that these statements have been made bo frequently and are repeated by every one opposed to land values taxation, that it seems necessary to refute them.
– There is nothing to prevent prevent anybody, repeating those arguments outside this’, chamber, but our Standing Orders do not permit of a tedious repetition of them in the Senate.”
– I have no intention of violating your ruling, sir. Unfortunately, the motion proposed at the Perth Conference was defeated by seventeen votes to fifteen, and therefore the policy of the party of which I am a member still pro- vides for an exemption of £5,000. That does not, however, prevent the Government from imposing taxation in the right way.
I thank the Senate for having’ listened to me with so much patience. I had a great deal more to say on the subject, but I feel that it is not of very much use at the present stage to attempt to induce the Government to alter the attitude they have taken up. The Government propose bridging the gap in the revenue by collecting through Customs £1,985,000, from income tax £2,200,000, from land values taxation £380,000, from the entertainments tax £275,000, from the war postage tax £516,000, and to transfer from London £800,000, leaving an estimated surplus of £30,996. I am disappointed that they have not seen fit to ask the land-owners of Australia to pay a little more and - the income tax payers a little- less. The Government’s entertainments tax and war postage tax I entirely disagree with. To ask the land-owners of the Commonwealth for only a nominal additional sum of £380,000 is no credit to the Government. Those people are well able to pay the money; they could easily afford to pay £2,000,000, which the Government propose to secure from the income tax, and perhaps the income tax payers might be let off with a payment of £380,000. The proposal of the Government is in the right direction, and if I do vote against the second-, reading I shall do so with some reluctance, in the hope that when the Government next’ bring forward a land tax: Bill ifr wall he: framed- on. more scientific - lines and collect an. additional amount from the land-owners’ of Aus- tralia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.. .
Bill read a - second, time, and: passed through its remaining stages without request.
Senate adjourned at. 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181128_senate_7_87/>.