12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Excise Duty onfortifyingspirit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
£233,486. (Drawback of the excise duty paid was allowed on all fortified wine exported.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This matter is a present under consideration.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
SenatorH . E. ELLIOTT asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information on the subject is being obtained, and will be supplied later.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 20th March vide page 310) :
Section three of the Principal Act is amended -
Provided that the unimproved value shall in no case be less than the sum that would be obtained by deducting the value of improvements from the improved value at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this Act.”; and
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.6]. - I ask the committee to reject this » clause as an indication to the Government that we are not satisfied with its terms and in order to give the Ministers an opportunity to consider whether it is not possible to draft an amending provision which will accomplish what the Government is seeking and at the same time meet the objections raised in the Senate. Senator Colebatch pointed out last evening that the very simple language contained in the Western Australian law and, I believe, also in the New Zealand and Victorian Acts might be adopted. It is easy to understand the meaning of those measures. The language of the provisions contained in them is in marked contrast to the involved phraseology of this clause. I suggest also that the clause, as drafted, conflicts with what the Minister declares to be the present practice and the future intention of the department in administering the act. Because of the haste with which we are asked to deal with the bill in this chamber, it is not possible for honorable senators to draft an amendment that will exactly meet their wishes, so I suggest that as the Government has at its disposal the services of the expert advisers, it should ask them to frame an amendment that will secure in substance what it is aiming at and meet our objections.
– I sincerely trust that the committee will not follow the advice of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) and vote against the clause. The principal attack . is in respect of those provisions which relate to the value of improvements. I presume therefore that if they were altered so as to meet with the views of the Leader of the Opposition, he would not persist with his objection.
– Provided consequential alterations were made in other sections.
– It is necessary that honorable senators should understand what was in the mind of the Government when these provisions were drafted. The principle which the department desires to establish is this : If a man purchases a property in an area infested with prickly pear, at what might be termed a depressed value, say, £9 an acre, and if the productive value of that land is £10 an acre, its real value for taxation purposes should be £9 per acre, plus X, which may be taken to represent the annual cost to keep the land clear of prickly pear. The department argues that if a man purchases land at a depressed value he should not, for taxation purposes, claim a deduction in respect of the amount necessary to lift it from its depressed value to its real value.
– What would be the position of a man who purchased from the Crown?
– The Commissioner would require to know the purposes for which the Crown land had been purchased - whether for wheat production or pastoral purposes.
– How can any man be bound down in that way?
– It is necessary to ascertain for what purpose land is to be used. If Crown land is purchased, certain expenditure must be incurred to bring it to a cultivable condition, or a condition suitable for grazing. I am instructed by the Prime Minister to state definitely and unequivocally that, if the usual procedure of the department as indicated in the clause governing the definitions is departed from, the Government will amend the law; at present, if a man buys, say Mallee country, and incurs expenditure in clearing it, the cost to him of cutting and clearing Mallee shoots is allowed. 1 am advised by the Crown Law Office that this practice will not be affected by the definitions in this bill. I submitted the definitions in the Western Australian act to the Crown law authorities. I am informed that as the result of the McGeoch case Western Australia will be put in the same position as the Commonwealth. The McGeoch case has completely altered the whole situation.
– The wording of the present act is quite different from the wording of the Western Australia act.
– That is so; but in consequence of the judgment of the McGeoch case, the whole basis of computation has been brought into question. The principle has now been adopted that if a man buys land at a depressed value it would be manifestly unfair to consider that in determining its unimproved value for taxation purposes, and then allow deductions.
– The point is that the owner would then get a benefit twice over ?
– That is so.
– But has there not been a mistake of fact in this judgment, and not in the principle of law?
– The McGeoch case really says that whether the land was bought at a depressed value or an inflated value, it must be taken back to the time when it was pear infested to determine its unimproved value.
– There is not one word in the judgment - I have read it this morning - to the effect that this man took into consideration, in fixing his price for the land, the fact that it was likely to be infested.
– At that part of my speech I was outlining the argument advanced by counsel for the Commissioner of Taxation. What I said was that the High Court judges disregarded that contention of the Commissioner. What the
High Court decided was that the basis of fixing the value was wrong.
– Surely value is value? Nothing can alter that.
– Value is value, whether it be improved or unimproved; but we have to find a distinction between land unimproved and land which will remain unimproved so long as man does nol; exercise his functions. There is, however, another class of land which has to be considered, namely, land which will deteriorate in value if nothing is done upon it. The department says that when a man has done something to prevent deterioration of his land, and to keep it up to the standard in which he bought it, that expenditure, being allowed for in the original purchase, should not be claimed as a deduction afterwards. If that principle is sound, what we have to do is to find appropriate words in which to express it.
– Who is to decide whether the land is bought at a so-called depressed value or at an inflated value? We all buy dear land sometimes, and at times we all buy cheap land.
– All the circumstances have to be taken into consideration. Let us suppose that I buy a block of land near a man who has dirty fallow and who allows bracken and all sorts of pests to flourish. If he were a good farmer and cleared his land the land adjacent might be worth £10 per acre; but as he was not a good farmer I should have to buy the land, bearing that disability in mind. I should know that unless I did something to prevent the pests coming upon my land, the pests would come upon it and it would deteriorate in value. Consequently, I would pay less for the land than would otherwise be the case.
– But, after all, land is bought according to the judgment of the purchaser.
– Of course it is. If you intend to grow wheat you must consider the cost of producing it. If I knew that I should have to spend £1 a year in order to maintain the value of the land at, say, £10 an acre, I should fix my price accordingly. The land would be worth, possibly, less than £9 an acre. The department says that the cost of any improvements to the land which increases its value may be claimed as a deduction.
– But in the bill you use the expression “ improvement on “ and not “ improvement to “.
– The whole trouble is that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has taken certain words out of their context. If the words quoted by the right honorable senator stood alone his contention would be unanswerable, but when the words are used in their proper context, his argument falls to the ground. The words “ whether by means of destroying animal pests or vegetable growths, or of preventing such pests or growths from establishing themselves by any other means “ must be read in relation to the remainder of the definition. Let me read the complete proviso to honorable senators. It is as follows : -
Provided further,that in ascertaining the value of improvements no amount shall be included in such value in respect of any work done or expenditure incurred for the purpose of preventing land, or any improvements thereon, from deteriorating, or of maintaining land which has been improved, at its improved value, whether by means of destroying animal pests or vegetable growths, or of preventing such pests or growths from establishing themselves, or by any other means, but, in respect of fences and other structural improvements, effected for any of those purposes, which are on the land at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes ofthis act, an amount shall, subject to the preceding proviso, be included.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.25]. - In spite of what the Leader of the Government has said it appears to me that this bill provides for the introduction of an entirely new principle in land valuation. We have heard a lot about what a man pays for land, and about purchases made at a depressed price. But what has that got to do with it? A man may have bought land yesterday, five years ago, or ten years ago, and a dozen things may have occurred to decrease or increase its value since its purchase. What matters is the value of the land at the time of assessment. The value of it is surely its fair selling price at the time, and it may not have any relation to the price paid for it. It is an extraordinary proposition to suggest that land, which may be bought for £10 an acre except that it adjoins similar land of a careless farmer, and, therefore, may cost £1 a year to keep it clear of pests, is worth, consequently, only £9 an acre. If the land would cost £1 a year to keep it clear of pesfs it would not be worth anything like £9 an acre. It might be worth £9 an acre if the expenditure of £1 an acre had to be incurred for only one year. But if it had to be incurred every year, the value might not be £5 an acre. But why should we bother our heads about these things ? They have nothing to do with the case. I repeat the suggestion that. I made last night, that we should adopt the simple definition of unimproved value which appears in the Western Australian act. It is as follows : -
In respect of land granted in fee-simple, the capital sum of what the fee-simple in such land would sell under such reasonable conditions of sale as a bona fide seller would require assuming the actual improvements (if any) had not been made……..
The definition of “improvements” is -
Improvements” includes houses andbuildings, fencing, planting, roads made or macadamised by the owner, excavations for holding water, wells, pumps, windmills, and other apparatus for raising water, drains, ring-barking, clearing for timber, or scrub, or poisoned plants, or noxious weeds, or laying down in grass or pasture, and any other improvements whatsoever, the benefit of which is unexhausted at the time of valuation but does not include any railways or tramways constructed under any act or any provisions thereof.
It should be beyond question that deductions should be allowed in respect of the benefit of those improvements the value of which is “unexhausted at the time of valuation.” If a man cleared his land and then, through carelessness, allowed suckers to grow all over it again, obviously he should not be entitled to a second deduction when he cleared it the second time, because the benefit of the first improvement of that nature had been exhausted. The Leader of the Government, has told us that by the recent decision of the High Court the definitions in the New Zealand, Western Australian, and Victorian acts, which have stood the test of years, will not stand any longer.
– I did not mention New Zealand.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The New Zealand definition is practically the same as that of Victoria and Western Australia. As a matter of fact our definitions were taken from the New Zealand act. New Zealand led the way in land taxation. It has always been a fundamental principle that the value of improvements should be deducted. I have not had an opportunity to study the judgment of the High Court in the McGeoch ease, but the intention of Parliament was undoubtedly that owners should be allowed to deduct the value of improvements the benefit of which was not exhausted. It seems to me that a new method of valuation is being introduced, which will take into consideration whether land was purchased at depressed or inflated values. If it also takes into account the weird proposition that land otherwise worth £10 an acre would be worth £9 an acre because it would cost £1 per year per acre to keep it clear of pests, we shall reach an extraordinary position. The adoption of that principle would very quickly tax a man out of existence altogether.
– We can all agree with what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) said this morning to the effect that if an owner of land had purchased a property in a neighbourhood where a great deal of prickly pear was present, and in purchasing the land had taken into consideration the fact that he would have to incur an annual cost to keep the land free from prickly pear, he should not have the benefit of a deduction twice. I think the committee will agree that if that was all that the Government was attempting to prevent there would not be any grave objection to the Government’s proposals in that respect. I contend that the whole trouble has arisen through a complete misunderstanding of the judgment in the McGeoch case, a copy of which I have obtained this morning. As the Minister was temporarily absent from the chamber when I referred to this matter last night, I repea t that the Government should walk warily in this matter. While I, in common with Senator Colebatch, would like to see the definitions in our Land Tax Assessment
Acts expressed as simply as possible, I submit that this is not an occasion when that should be attempted. The more we examine these definitions the more difficult it becomes to understand the maze of technicalities which have grown around our Commonwealth taxation system. While I fully appreciate the value of the suggestion made by Senator Colebatch, I feel it would be unwise for this committee when considering an amending measure such as this, to attempt to get back to what I believe aresound principles, but which, after all, are principles which might occasion a good deal of litigation and controversy between the Federal Taxation Commissioner and a set of taxpayers in the High Court. In these circumstances, I think we should do the best we can with the material at our disposal, with a view, if possible, to reaching a point which I think is the only one that the Minister desires to cover, and that is that a landowner shall not have the benefit of these deductions more than once. Is there anything in these decisions that has brought about this result? For the benefit of honorable senators who have not had an opportunity to peruse the decision in the McGeoch case, I shall quote from the judgment, certain relevant passages. In stating the question broadly in the McGeoch case, the learned judges said -
The first question for decision in this case is whether the keeping of certain lands, owned by the appellant, clear of prickly pear in the manner prescribed in the case stated is an “ improvement “ within the meaning of the Land Tax Assessment Acts of 1910-24 and 1910-26.
The judgment then proceeds to deal with the provision of the act, which I need not quote. This is one of the facts stated in the case submitted to the Full Court -
The appellant at all material times has been the owner of “ the said lands “ and has continued to carry on the business of grazing thereon. Prior to the acquisition of “ the said lands “ by the appellant the “ said lands “ and other lands in the neighbourhood of “ the said lands “ became menaced by prickly pear.
The land of the appellant and the neighbouring land became menaced by prickly pear. The judgment, continues - “ The said lands “ have ever since continued to be menaced by the said prickly pear and if the prickly pear had not been prevented from establishing itself thereon by the expenditure thereon hereinafter referred to the whole of “ the said lands “ would have become thickly infested with prickly pear. Other lands in the neighbourhood on which the said prickly pear has not been prevented from establishing itself have become thickly infested with prickly pear and 700 acres of “ the said lands “ on which the prickly pear was not prevented from establishing itself have also become and still are thickly infested with prickly pear.
It then goes on to state that -
Land in the neighbourhood which has been allowed to become thickly infested with prickly pear may be taken for the purposes of this appeal to be of negligible value.
And further on -
Since the acquisition of “ the said lands “ as aforesaid the appellant has expended moneys for such labour and material as aforesaid, and in the year ending 30th June, 1926, expended for that year a total of £288 15s., therefor.
Further, the judgment sets out the statutory requirements of the Queensland and New South Wales acts in regard to the keeping of land free from prickly pear. Having examined the facts as they were, they proceeded to apply to that case the principles enunciated by the same court in 1913 and reiterated in 1915, and decided, as I have already indicated, that the question was whether the keeping of certain lands owned by the appellant clear of prickly pear in the manner described in the case stated was an “improvement “ within the meaning of the Land Tax Assessment Act.
– And they decided that it was.
– Yes ; what else could they decide? If the Government is attempting to alter that decision I am opposed to the amendment in its entirety, but if it is simply to endeavour to prevent a man obtaining the benefit of thi’s so-called improvement more than once I do not think the High Court has so ruled. It seems that the Government is using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I cannot find that the landowner is getting a deduction in two ways, and I feel that his Honour the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Dixon would not have ruled that, in calculating the unimproved value, a landowner should be entitled to make the deduction more than once.
– Does the amendment which we are proposing go further and prevent that, even if the decision in the McGeoch case does not go that far?
– I shall deal with that later. After examining this case, which I referred to last night, and applying those principles so clearly laid down the judgment goes on to deal with the Toohey case, which was mentioned in argument, in this way -
But as it has been suggested that the effect of the judgment in Toohey’s ease is to exclude from the category of . “ improvements “ in arriving at the unimproved value of the land anything which is not at the relevant date visible as a physical addition to or excrescence upon the land - such as a house or a fence, or a dam containing water - we think we should deal with the matter more fully, in view of its importance as bearing on the liability of a great number of taxpayers engaged in rural industries. We may say at the outset that it was not contested at the bar in this case that the removal of prickly pear from the land would be an “ improvement “ within the meaning of the act, the contention of the Commissioner being that the prevention of infestation by prickly pear was not equivalent for the purpose to its removal when the land had become infested.
Apart from the point put by the Minister that the landowner cannot have it both ways, it is illogical to contend that the removal of prickly pear from land can be allowed as a deduction in deciding the “ unimproved value “ and then to deny him that deduction because -he expends capital in preventing the growth of prickly pear upon his. land. It seems to me that deductions should be allowed in both cases. The majority judgment of the court summarizes the position, deals with the contention of the Commissioner, and then goes on to state’ that -
But it is well known that the .infestation o1 land by prickly pear is in its early stages a gradual;’ although, unfortunately, not a slow process, manifested by the springing up of small patches of individual plant of the pear as the result of the dropping of seeds on the land by birds. . . .
That aspect of the matter is further dealt with, and is compared with cases in which the removal of roots and suckers are involved. Reference is then made to the Morrison and Keogh cases and the observations that Mr. Justice Rich made are then quoted and confirmed by tho Pull Court. I have not the judgment in the Toohey case before me, but I think it might be briefly stated in this way: A special value was given to the land in question because of a licence - I am not sure in- what form - which was attached to it. Would we, for a moment, suggest that that was an “ improvement “ that should be deducted in ascertaining the unimproved value of the land? It was in reference to the judgment in the Toohey case that the dissenting judgment was given in the McGeoch case. Commenting on that case a majority of the judges of the High Court said -
We do not think the Judicial Committee decided or intended to decide that the conversion by the owner of a piece of land which in that condition was valueless, into avaluable farm of land by draining the swamp land could not be treated as an improvement on or appertaining to the land. Because at the relevant date there was nothing in existence on the land to show what improvement had in fact been made, and if we are right in this view the decision in Morrison’s case stands unaffected.
So far as I can judge, the decision was concerned only with the question whether the additional value given by the hotel licence was an inherent factor in assessing the unimproved value.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I oppose this clause because of the reasons already advanced by several honorable senators, and also because of the indefinite nature of the wording. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) says that it is not the intention of the department to disallow claims for clearing scrub, killing suckers, and so on. I believe that he went further, and said that the Government had consulted the Crown authorities, who confirmed his opinion. In view of that assertion, I shall, as a layman, endeavour to make clear the great alteration in practice that would be brought about by the new definitions. It must be remembered that the High Court, and not the department or Crown law authorities, will have the final say in the matter, and Parliament should be very careful before granting to the department a power which it really does not intend to be used. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the definition of unimproved value in the original act. It reads - “Unimproved value,” in relation to land, means the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller, would require, assuming that the improvements (if any) thereon or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title had not been made.
That definitely embodies the whole of the improvements on a block of land, including the clearing of scrub and draining of swamp lands. The west coast of South Australia is to-day producing one-fifth of the wheat of that State. Fifteen years ago that country was practically nothing but a belt of virgin mallee scrub. The Government sold the land to settlers for as much as it could get for it, for what might be termed the whole of the unimproved value.
– And then it spent something like £5,000,000 on railways and on water conservation schemes to improve the land, and received nothing in return.
– Many of those farms have been thoroughly cleared of the original mallee scrub, and no one inspecting them now would imagine that the scrub was ever on the land. The clearing of that country has not left apparent any signs of visible improvements. The principal act defined “value of improvements “ in this way - “ Valueof improvements,” in relation to land, means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the date of valuation irrespective of the cost of the improvements :
That is to be radically altered by the proposed amendment, and a grave doubt exists as to whether the cost of such improvements may be deducted. Here is the new definition of “unimproved value “ - “Unimproved value”, in relation to unimproved land, means the capital sum which the fee simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require. “ Unimproved value “, in relation to improved land, means the capital sum which the fee simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require, assuming that, at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, the improvements thereon did not exist:
– The words “improvements thereon or appertaining thereto “ are to be omitted.
– Yes ; there is quite a difference. The definition continues -
Pro,ided f further that in ascertaining the value of improvements, no amount shall bc included in such value in respect of any work done or expenditure incurred for the purpose of preventing land, or any improvements thereon, from deteriorating, or of maintaining land which has been improved, at its improved value, whether by means of destroying animal pests or vegetable growths, or of preventing such pests or growths from establishing themselves, or by any other means, hut, in respect of fences and other structural improvements, effected for any of those purposes, which are on the hind at the time as at which the. value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, an amount shall, subject to the preceding proviso, be included.
There it definitely states what t lie Government will allow the settler to deduct for improvements. The new proposal is adverse to the man on the land. The clearing of land is not a visible improvement, such as a building would be, and its cost, which might be considerable, will not be allowed.
– Surely it is apparent to the honorable senator that those improvements will be allowed.
– It is not, and Senator Daly has not cleared my mind in that respect. I know that my opinion is shared by other honorable senators, that a decision of the High Court on the wording of the proposed new section would be adverse to the settler. Fencing and other visible improvements are mentioned as items which may be deducted, and the natural inference is that the other “ invisible “ improvements to which I have referred are not to be deducted. That is one of the reasons why I feel impelled to’ vote against the proposed amendment. If settlers are not to be allowed to deduct the cost of clearing their land they will be subjected to a great injustice. Thatclearing has made their farming operations successful. It is as the result of energy and the expenditure of money that the land has increased in value. Therefore, it is not unearned increment, and should not be taxed.
– I ask honorable senators not to fall into the error of picking out a particular portion of the proposed amendment and attempting to interpret it with out relation to the words immediately preceding. I shall take the point raised by Senator Chapman, and acquiesced in by Senator H. E. Elliott. It has been contended that the farmers who bought Mallee scrub country on the west coast of South Australia, and enhanced its valueby clearing, would not be entitled under the new definition to claim a deduction for that improvement. I invite honorable senators to look at the whole of the proposed amendment and to ascertain what it “means. “Value of improvements” in relation to land means the added value which the improvements give to the land.” If those words stood alone, then everything done on or to that land would be an improvement within the meaning of the proposed new section. But then there is. a proviso which excludes from the general operation of the paragraph certain particular operations which by no stretch of imagination come within the point raised by Senator Chapman. A settler does not root up trees in mallee country in order to prevent the land from deteriorating or to maintain the then existing value of the land.
– But. lie does cut suckers for that purpose.
– No. That nickering is just as much a clearing of the land as was the original uprooting of the trees. It may take five years to complete the work, and every step in the clearing operations is included in the first paragraph, “ value of improvements “, and is not excluded by the proviso. Shootcutting is a part of the clearing operations, a task which is not performed for the purpose mentioned in the proviso. That being so, it does not come within its provisions.
– Will the honorable senator explain why the words “ or appertaining thereto “ have been omitted ?
– In practice those words have been found to be really unnecessary, but at the same time they have given rise to much discussion between taxpayers and the department without finally affecting the result previously arrived at by consideration of “ improvements thereon.” The words “appertaining thereto “ have been interpreted by the
High Court as meaning “ legally appurtenant thereto,” so that if the land is sold the appurtenant improvements must be sold with it, although they may not be actually on the land.
The High Court’s decision created a confusion which the department in its wisdom has thought it unnecessary to perpetuate. The principle is not affected. Honorable senators need not look round to find some excuse for opposing the bill. The only ground for opposing the measure hitherto advanced is the fear in the minds of some honorable senators that the definition in its present form should not be widened ; but the present law is already wide enough to cover cases other than that which Senator McLachlan was good enough to mention, that of the man who is trying to “get it both ways.”
– What virtue is there in the words “ as at which”?
– They refer to the 30th June in each year. But in any case there is no need to quibble over words.
– They do not occur in any other act, and they seem to confuse where the intention is to make clear.
– The words do not complicate the position.
– Do they mean anything?
– They mean that the clause has been drawn up in a legal manner, and when the matter is so urgent we ought not to quibble over whether the Government has adopted one style of drafting when it might have adopted another.
– Why is this bill urgent?
– Once a loophole is discovered every one will be seeking to discover another. There are cases nowpending before the High Court - three are set down in the list for hearing in Sydney next week - and it would be wrong for us to postpone our decision until the end of next week, thereby shutting out certain litigants after having put them to the expense of engaging counsel. Tt is for Parliament to decide whether it is prepared to limit improvements to those which actually improve the land as opposed to those which prevent deterioration. The words used in the clause have been prepared by experts under instructions from the Government to cover the class of case I have several times mentioned. If they go further than is intended, I invite any honorable senator to suggest an amendment, and I am sure the Government will give favorable consideration to it. But I ask honorable senators not to reject the clause because there are words in it which it is felt are too wide for the purpose for which the Government declares they are necessary.
– In Western Queensland clean land is becoming affected by a terrific growth of nooghoora burr brought there by returning stock. Will the removal of the growth be regarded as an improvement?
– Even under the existing law it could not be claimed as a deduction. By no stretch of the imagination could it be brought within the law as laid down in the McGeoch case.
– I take exception to the .bill because of the indefinite nature of the language employed in this clause. “ Value of improvements “ in relation to land is given the following meaning: -
The added value which the improvements give to the land at a time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act irrespective of the cost of the improvements.
Supposing a man spends £10 uri acre in clearing timber off his land.
– That is already provided for in the existing act and the Government is not attempting to alter it.
– But in this clause the words “ irrespective of the cost of the improvements “ are modified by the proviso : -
Provided further that in ascertaining the value of improvements no amount shall be included in such value in respect of any work done or expenditure incurred for the purpose of preventing land, or any improvements thereon, from deteriorating, or of maintaining land which has been improved, at its improved value, whether :by means of destroying animal pests or vegetable growths, or of preventing such pests or growths from establishing themselves, or by any other means, but, in respect of fences and other structural improvements, effected for any of those purposes, which are on the land at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, an amount shall, subject to the preceding proviso, be included.
The words “ structural or visible improvements “ are emphasized. I shall vote against the clause unless the Government makes it clear that a deduction is to be allowed npt only for the- value of visible improvements such as housing, fencing and dams, &c, but also for the invisible improvements such as clearing operations which may extend over 70 years, with ring-barking and burning-off, ploughing, harrowing, sowing with grass, and fertilizing.
– Expenditure of that kind is excluded only if it is done for the purpose of maintaining land in its existing condition.
– But why does the clause emphasize “ fences and structural improvements?” I frankly admit that I cannot accept the clause as it stands. I want to safeguard the man who has improved his country and by doing so benefited Australia. He .should be encouraged and not penalized, and the clearing work he has done should be regarded as an improvement as much as his wool shed or his dam would be.
– A man’s work in improving his property is regarded by the bill as an improvement for which a deduction may be made.
.- We are told that there is nothing ‘ in the proposed alteration of the .law that interferes with, or alters the incidence of the Commonwealth land tax or enables the Government to increase the avenues of taxation; and that on the contrary the measure is merely to. give effect to the law as it has always been understood and administered. If Senator Daly will give an assurance that this clause does not interfere with, or alter the general application pf the land taxation law as it has been understood, and that it is merely designed to more clearly define the existing law, I shall support it. But I should also like an assurance that if the Government finds that the clause is being used for any other purpose than has been indicated, an amending bill will immediately be brought down.
– I have just glanced at some of the .observations of Mr. Justice Isaacs in his dissenting judgment in the McGeoch case, but before passing on to them I should like to conclude my observations in regard to the majority decision of the court in the Toohey case which, as I have already pointed put, was in relation to the definition of improvements and related to the additional value given to the particular lands in question by the presence of an hotel licence. The question was whether the additional value given by the hotel licence inhered in the site or unimproved land. The argument did not raise or refer to the question whether improvements might not consist in or result from the destruction of undesirable vegetation or alterations not being physical additions to the land. The court held -
In these circumstances we think it is incredible that by such a phrase Viscount Dunedin should have intended to decide so important a matter and to decide it in a sense .contrary to the settled view of the Austraiian courts settled over’ a long period of time.
Mr. Justice Isaacs in his judgment frankly admits that it is upsetting the decision in the Morrison case and all other cases which have been the law and which the Commissioner of Taxation has known all about, ever since 1913. It seems to me that these provisions are unnecessary, unless they have been inserted to make it possible to gather in some other cases about which we have npt been informed. If the Leader of the Senate can draft a clause - it appears to be a comparatively simple ma’tter - to prevent a man from enjoying taxation exemption benefits twice over, the objections of honorable senators on this side will be met. But this legislation goes further than that. Mr. Justice Isaacs, in his dissenting judgment, said -
To remove a detriment is,, pf course, an improvement “to” the land or “of “ the land, but does not constitute an improvement of the .land or appertaining to the land.
If it does not, it ought to. If a man removes a detriment, to. his land, and thereby .increases its value, surely he should have an -allowance, made for his expenditure when ascertaining its unimproved value. If the Government goes to the length of saying that an improvement must be on the land, it will deprive thousands of taxpayers of that which they have always believed to be their right since the decision in the Morrison case in 1913, and the Fisher and McGeoch cases later. His Honour, Mr. Justice Isaacs, went on further to say -
The prevention of a detriment is still further removed; it leaves the land practically as it is.
What I cannot help thinking is that the Government is going a long way further than is necessary, if all that it desires to do is to prevent a recurrence of what the Leader of the Senate said had happened in the McGeoch case. I can find no record of that, though possibly I am not in possession of the whole of the facts.
– Why does not the honorable senator suggest a suitable amendment ?
– That is on the Government. The Leader of the Senate is asking us to accept a proposal which is utterly unreal. All that is. necessary is to substitute for this clause a provision to prohibit any person from enjoying exemption benefits twice over. We may reasonably assume that, when a man buys land, he takes into consideration the disabilities he is likely to be under as regards its maintenance, so it should be possible to frame a provision to prevent him from making allowance for such expenditure in futuro, as regards taxation. If the Ministry is prepared to do this, I feel sure that the committee will accept it, because it is manifestly wrong that any man should enjoy a benefit twice over, though I cannot believe that this was established in the McGeoch case. Dealing further with this matter, Mr. Justice Isaacs said -
An improvement of the land has an abstract denotation, indicating a better quality of the land itself, but has no independent existence or identity.
That is exactly the view of honorable senators on this side. Mr. Justice Isaacs frankly admits that in coming to this conclusion he has overturned all the principles that have been laid down in those earlier cases, and he accepted the reasoning of Viscount Dunedin in the Toohey case.
– The case covered by clause 2 is not urgent. The Government could bring in another measure to deal with it, but it would not be desirable to have the debate all over again. I am rather impressed with the suggestion made by Senator McLachlan, and I have placed it before the taxation authorities for consideration. All that we are anxious to do is to prevent any people from getting benefits both ways, as the honorable senator has explained. I suggest, therefore, that the views of the honorable senators opposite will be met if we allow the clause to be negatived, because as I have stated this particular clause is not urgent, and next week I will introduce certain provisions in another measure to deal with this matter.
Clause 3 (Land exempted from tax).
– As I have intimated to the Leader of the Senate I move for the insertion in section 13 of the following new paragraph : -
– I rise to a point of order. I have had an opportunity to read the amendment, and I submit that it is not relevant to the bill. We have agreed to postpone consideration of this portion of the measure, and I give the honorable senator an assurance that when we resume discussion on it, the Government willseriously consider his timely proposal.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
– The Minister made special reference to the fact that provision was being included in the bill for the purpose of taxing golf clubs. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has already stated the position of those clubs. I do not wish it to be understood that honorable senators on this side have a special brief for people who play golf, but I remind the committee that the numerous golf clubs in the various capital cities of the Commonwealth have expended large sums of money in converting what, in many instances, was swampy and worthless land into beautiful well improved playing areas, and have also incurred heavy expenditure in the erection of club houses. The activities of these clubs have enhanced substantially the value of adjoining properties.
– Those clubs will be allowed to deduct the cost of all improvements.
– I have in mind the position of a number of important golf clubs such as the Rose Bay Golf Club (Sydney), and the Hamilton and Yeerongpilly Clubs in Brisbane. Those clubs purchased land that was practically useless for any other purpose. They cleared, drained, and improved their properties, and have built commodious club houses for their members. Already they are liable to municipal taxation. In many instances members of golf clubs formed working bees to carry out the work, and also taxed themselves by purchasing debentures to develop their courses.
– They are not so poor that the honorable senator needs to cry about them.
– I am not doing that. I am merely directing attention to the fact that the Leader of the Senate led us to believe that the inclusion of golf clubs for taxation purposes was a gesture to please the democrats of this country.
– I did not say that. I think it was Senator Sampson who made that remark.
– While the Minister was speaking I heard Senator Hoare interject, “It is about time we got at that mob.” But I do not intend to vote against the clause on that account. The golf clubs, asI have stated, serve a useful purpose. They occupy what was for the most part, swampy and worthless country, and by the expenditure of large sums of money have conferred a substantial benefit on all the properties in the vicinity of club courses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Lessors and lessees of land leased before the commencement of the act).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.30].- I should like an explanation of this clause. I understand that, although judgment has been given in the Northampton case, certain other proceedings commenced by taxpayers who consider that they have been wrongly assessed under the law as it stands have been delayed by the Commissioner of Taxation. If these cases are on all fours with the Northampton case it appears to be unjust that the taxpayers concerned should be robbed of the benefits of that judgment. I have been informed that the hearing of those cases has been held up, because it was necessary for certain particulars to be furnished by the Commissioner of Taxation. The delay has not been caused by the appellants.
– A number of appeals were submitted to the High Court on various points, but the judgment given in the Northampton case was on a point that was not raised by any of the litigants, and was not even seriously considered by the department. As a matter of fact the court succeeded in releasing a rabbit from a warren which nobody knew of. I assure honorable senators that we are not seeking to amend the law in respect of any matter already raised by appellants whose cases are awaiting hearing. There was no arrangement or understanding between the Government and the litigants that the decision in the Northampton case should be applicable to other cases in respect to the point upon which that case turned. There may have been room for an understanding of that kind in respect to other points raised in the case, but that will not be affected by this legislation. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition would not ask the Government to protect litigants in cases where decisions have not been given. As a matter of fact the right honorable senator said yesterday that the Government should be careful, in dealing with customs and land tax measures, not to accept obligations which it was not bound to accept. There was no expressed agreement or implied undertaking between the litigants and the Government that the Northampton case should be regarded as a test case in respect of the issue upon which the judgment was based. In these circumstances w e are entitled to look at this clause from the point of view of the general principles which should apply in these circumstances.
– I have no objection to the, Government rectifying anything that was apparently overlooked and, as 1 said last night, there is some force in the contention put forward that no one appreciated the possibility that actually arose in the Northampton case. But I feel that the Government should go a little further in the application of the principles stated in this clause. Paragraph 4 of clause fl reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the amendments effected by this act shall not apply so as to affect any judgment of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State obtained, prior to the commencement of this act, by any person in his favour in respect of an assessment under the Principal Act.
I take it that that is intended to cover the Northampton case. I cannot see any difference in principle in the case of the nian who has been fortunate enough to have his matter submitted to a judicial tribunal, and the man who has been unfortunate enough not to have had his case determined although his notice of objection was forwarded in proper order and in due time. In my opinion the rights of the latter should be preserved.
-. - Would the honorable senator explain how we could draw a distinction between the man who can afford to go to law and the man who cannot?
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government to the old saying, Vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt, “ Laws come to the assistance of the vigilant, not to the sleepy.” Certain taxpayers) were sufficiently vigilant to object to their assessment and to appeal against it. In the Northampton case the appellants succeeded. It appears to me, therefore, that the judgment should be made applicable to other appeals that were pending at the time that judgment was given. I have no serious objections to the clause under consideration, but I suggest that the effect of it should be carried a little further. 1 feel this more strongly because of the position created by the sending out from the department of the circular which Senator Pearce read last night. That circular suggested to me that these people had a right to consider that they would be regarded as remaining in statu qua. I have not examined the circular carefully, but that seemed to me to be the effect of it. I suggest that this Parliament should take every possible step to give fair play to the citizens of Australia. We do not want to be accused of breaking faith, or of departing from covenants that have been made. I understand that in the northern part of Australia a number of Crown leases are held by people of another nationality. If they were Australians we might be willing to go ahead on the catch-as-catch-can basis, but in dealing with other people we should be more than ordinarily careful to see that we do not perpetuate anything in the shape of an injustice, and that we do not go back on any implied promise that has been given. 1 trust that when we reach the appropriate stage in our considerationof this measure the Government will act along the lines that I have suggested. Everything possible should be done to maintain the honour of Parliament and to keep faith with the people, and particularly with those people who have invested overseas money in Australia. We should avoid every appearance of controversy in such cases.
– When the circular to which reference has been made- was sent out the department could not possibly have anticipated . the particular point raised by the Northampton judgment which we are now seeking to meet. I have obtained. a report from the Prime Minister upon this matter, which reads as follows: - _ It has been suggested that we have repudiated some understanding or arrangement arrived at between the previous Government and the lessees. There was an understanding that a test case should be brought before the court to determine the method of valuation, but it had nothing to do with the interpretation of the law.As a matter of fact, the question decided by the court was not one of those at issue during the whole long history of this controversy. This is an entirely new thing sprung on us as a result of the court’s interpretation of the law. The method of valuation is the only thing on which any undertaking had been given, and the only point which was submited to the court as a test case.
The honorable senator will realize that if we acted upon his suggestion we should not only have to meet the cases already pending, but we should have to open the door to other litigants. It will be admitted that if the scope of this proposed new provision were extended as suggested, the Government would have to meet obligations in respect of those persons who may have some legal rights and many other persons who have no legal rights whatever. It seems to me that if we accepted responsibility on this point in the case of appeals awaiting hearing we should be morally obliged to accept obligations in respect of lessees who submitted no appeals. Seeing that the Northampton case was settled on a point which was not raised by any of the appellants it appears to me that the judgment must be limited to that case, or. else the door must be opened to all persons who might have secured a similar judgment had they taken the necessary action. While I have the greatest sympathy for the people whose cases remain unheard it appears to me that a chaotic position would be reached if we were to apply the Northampton judgment to all of them.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [2.15]. - It is very important that before proceeding further we should finally clear up the matter of certain undertakings, which, at some time were given, and which were mentioned in two letters that were read last night. These communications indicated that something in the nature of an undertaking had been given to certain taxpayers, and that as some change was in contemplation the final action could not be taken. I understand that the questions, raised were (1) What is the value of a Crown lease to be taxed, and (2) By what method is that value to be assessed. I understand, further, that the decision of the court in the Northampton case dealt with the value of a Crown lease to be taxed.
– Not in the Northampton case.
– I understood that the decision in that case was to the effect that a Crown lease had no taxable value, and I think I am correct in saying that that was the question upon which the High Court gave a decision. The other question is by what method the value is assessed. I suggest to the Minister that that was the point which was dealt with in the departmental letters read last night. Speaking from memory, those departmental communications were to the effect that no final action was to be taken because the method of assessment was under consideration. If what I state is correct, the Minister’s contention, to the effect that the decision of the High Court does not affect the question upon which an undertaking was given to certain taxpayers, holds’ good. If that is clearly set out, there can be no objection, but up to the present I do not think it has been so stated. In effect, the Minister said that the High Court gave a decision on a point that was not involved in the matter raised in the letters to which I have referred. Those communications referred, not to the question which the High Court subsequently determined, but to the method of assessment. If that is so, the whole position is clear ; but I suggest that it is extremely important that it should be settled at this juncture. We do not wish it to be said if this bill is passed - or that there should be any possibility of it ever being said - that there is anything in the nature of repudiation in this legislation. Nothing could be more disastrous to the credit of Australia if such an assertion could be substantiated.
– The right honorable senator does not suggest that we believe in repudiation ?
– I am only saying that there is a suggestion that this amending legislation is contrary to an undertaking already given. I do not think that such is the case, but of course I cannot speak for the Government. As the Government is in possession of all the facts and documents it ought to clear up the point.
.-Before replying to the points raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce),I should like to state the following facts for the information of Senator McLachlan. If the Government were to accept the suggestion made by the honorable senator that we should treat those who have lodged claims before the High Court on a different basis from other taxpayers, and the committee felt inclined to support his suggestions, the Government would be placed in this position: Approximately £330,000 is involved in this matter of which £84,000 forms the subject of three claims at present before the High Court, and about £250,000 is involved in cases which are liable to. be brought before that court. If we were to make a distinction between the three cases before the High Court, and to regard them as if this legislation had not been passed., we should not be acting fairly towards those taxpayers who may lodge claims involving £250,000.
– That can be discussed on clause 5.
– Yes, but I mention it because Senator McLachlan raised the point under this clause. In reply to the questions raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) I may say that these undertakings related to. the method of valuation which, according to my information, was not dealt with by the High Court. In case there may be any doubt in the minds of the committee I quote the following from the judgment of Chief Justice Knox, Mr, Justice Gavin Duffy, and Mr. Justice Rich : -
The general policy of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1910 is to tax the unimproved value of estates of freehold; but consistently’ with this policy it was thought desirable to tax the estate or interest, upon an unimproved basis, of leaseholders when the rent reserved was so far below what is commonly called an “economic rent,” viz., a rack rent, as to leave the leaseholderwith a valuable interest in land. Section 27 is directed to ascertaining the quantum of the value, upon an unimproved basis,of leaseholders whose terms were granted after the commencement of the act. Such leases would be granted with the full knowledge of the mode in which the act operated, and therefore required a treatment somewhat different from that which should be given to leases made before the act was passed. Section 23 accordingly provides particularly for leases granted before the commencement of the act. It performed the double function of enabling the owner of an estate of freehold, who has granted such a lease, to diminish the value at which his reversion is included in his assessment by deducting the value of the lessee’s interest-or what the statute calls the lessee’s estate - and of bringing it into the lessee’s assessment for the purpose of tax. Sub-section 3(a) provides what shall be the unimproved value of the lease or leasehold estate upon which the tax is to be levied. It arbitrarily fixes 4½ per cent. of the unimproved value of the land as “the economic” or rack rent of the land, and then determines the unimproved value of the estate by capitalizing the excess of that arbitrary rack rent over so much of the actual rent reserved as is considered attributable to the unimproved value of the land. Paragraph (b) of sub-section 3 of section 28 prescribes a method for computing the amount of the actual rent which is attributable to the unimproved value of the land. Paragraph (a) proscribes a method of determining the unimproved value of the lessee’s interest by capitalizing the excess over the rack rent. The material part is as follows: -
For the purposes of this section -
the unimproved value of a lease or leasehold estate in land means the value of the amount (if any) by which four and a half per centum of the unimproved value of land exceeds the annual rent reserved by the lease calculated for the unexpired period of the lease at four and a half per centum according to the calculations based on the prescribed tables for the calculation of values.
It is manifest from the mere reading of this provision that the intention was to tax the capital value of the interest which the lessee possessed by reason of the fact that he was entitled in possession to an estate of definite duration for which he was periodically required to pay a sum certain, so that on anygiven 30th June the future duration of his, estate was ascertainable and the future payments of rent were known. The present value of the estate on any 30th June consisted in the advantage which such a definite tenure and definite rent gave him in comparison with the rack rent, real or fixed artificially. It was upon this advantage, ascertained by comparison with the arbitrary rack rent of 4½ per cent. on the unimproved value of the land, that the tax was to be levied. This intention seems to us to be well expressed by the language used. What is to be. capitalized is the amount by which 4½ per cent. exceeds the annual rent reserved by the lease and the amount is to be calculated for the unexpired period of the lease. Further, it is to be calculated at 4½ per cent. according to calculations based on tables for the calculationof values. The expression rent “ reserved by the lease “ is apt to describe a sum certain issuing out of the land and payable year by year. It is, of course, not necessary that the sum each year shall be the same, but it is necessary that it shall be certain for each year and payable yearly or by reference to a year or parts of a year. It is nothing to the point that the rent is certain for a given year unless it is certain for every future year of the term and antecedently certain. The “ unexpired period of the lease “ refers to a duration of time with a certain end. The act itself provides for a certain beginning, viz., 30th June of the given year. A calculation at 4½ per cent. according to calculations based on tables for the calculation of values clearly points to well known methods of actuarial calculation in which the required integers are certain sums periodically recurring at certain times over a certain period. This provision, in our opinion, is entirely inapplicable to a case where the tenure of the land is of uncertain duration, and where the future amounts of rent are at the date of valuation unknown and unascertainable. The section has a sensible plain application to ordinary leases made between subject and subject, and this is its primary purpose. Section 27 (3), however, provided that, where the lease is a lease from the Crown, a lessee of the land shall be assessed and liable for land tax as if the lease were made before the commencement of the act, and not otherwise. This provision would operate to bring under the provisions of section 28 such Crown leases as possessed an unimproved value capable of ascertainment according to the method prescribed by section 28 (3). But it discloses no intention to bring into the tax any leases which are not capable of such ascertainment, and if it did disclose such an intention it would not be efficacious to do so, because in fact the lease would possess no characteristics upon which the statute operates to impose tax or to enable tax to be assessed. The words quoted from section 27 came there by amendment made by Act No. 29 of 1914. By the same act section 29 was amended. Up till then, section 29 had forbidden the taxation of a leasehold estate held under the laws of a State relating to the alienation or occupation of Crown lands, not being a perpetual lease, without revaluation, or a lease with a right of purchase. It is not clear whether a perpetual lease was at that time to be valued under sections 27 and 28, as they then stood, or under the remaining provisions of the act; but a lease with a right of purchase ordinarily would come within section 26. The amendment made by No. 29 of 1914 in section 29 consisted so far as material in including in the exception a lease of land to be used for pastoral, grazing or cultivation purposes, or a homestead lease, or a mining lease,or a timber lease, and omitting the word qualifying perpetual lease videlicet without revaluation, ft will be noticed that this provision merely extends an exception from a prohibition against imposition of tax. It does not in terms impose any tax. In our opinion it would be wrong to construe it as disclosing an intention to impose any tax upon any estate or interest in cases which would not, apart from the prohibition, come into a category upon which the remaining provisions of the act impose liability. It follows that it is not enough for the Crown to show that the lease falls within the exception. It is necessary for the Crown to go on and show that the lease is within the class upon which liability is affirmatively imposed. It follows that, in our opinion, the interest of a lessee under a Crown lease is not liable -to be included in his assessment unless its unimproved value is capable of being ascertained under the provision of section 28 (3), which we have already interpreted. It remains to consider whether the interest of the lessees under the lease, which is subject of the case stated, falls within that provision so interpreted. This lease must be given that operation which the law of Queensland, enforced at each relevant 30th June, gave to it. It is expressed in terms which conform to the laws of Queensland at the date when it was granted.
The court there decided a different point altogether. I am instructed by the Commissioner of Taxation that if this provision is passed the” matters now outstanding between the department and taxpayers can still be settled. But it is to overcome the one difficulty with which the department is confronted that this law should be amended. If that is not done the taxpayer can refuse to proceed with the negotiation with regard to valuation because he will be in the happy position of being able to say, “ I do not fall within the class of taxpayers affected.” I trust that the Senate will agree to this proposed legislation. I have pointed out, and Senator McLachlan has agreed with me, that the original statute was intended to cover this class of taxpayer; but the words used are inappropriate for the purpose. Those now suggested by the Government are appropriate to cover the class originally intended to be covered.
– I shall not delay the Senate until we reach clause 5, butI should like to hear from the Leader of the Opposition precisely what the following proviso means: -
Provided that leased land shall not be deemed to be subject to resumption without compensation, or without compensation except for improvements or certain improvements, nor shall any lease be deemed to have no period or no unexpired period, by reason of the fact that any land may be liable to be resumed or withdrawn from the lease for mining purposes or for public roads or for any other public purpose, without compensation or without compensation except for improvements or certain improvements.”
It seems to be incomprehensible that where the Government is taxing the interest of a person in some leasehold tenure, if the instrument which grants him that tenure provides that his lease may be terminable or liable to resumption, the Government should turn round and say that although it is subject to resumption, it shall not be deemed subject to resumption. That is the only objection I propose to offer.
– Senator McLachlan will realize that those words are inserted for the purpose of this particular provision. There will be all sorts of evasions of the law if they were not inserted.
– I thought that the earlier part of the proposed new section was sufficient.
– It is the course suggested by the Government’s legal officers, and the safest one for the Senate to adopt.
– I cannot understand what meaning can be attached to this clause. It seems to me that it will be a great source of revenue for the lawyers. It says, in effect, that a tree which is green shall be deemed not to be green.
– That is because you, I, and others are lawyers.
– I do not see either the sense or the justice of saying that although the lease can be resumed without compensation it shall for the purpose of this taxation be deemed not to be subject to resumption.
– I think the explanation is that the High Court has held that if a lease can be resumed without compensation, it shall be deemed to have no taxable value. This is to say to the High Court that it must take no notice of that.
– Can the honorable senator point out what is wrong with inserting the provision?
– I find great difficulty in understanding it. If, as happened in Canberra, a lease is subject to re-appraisement, it can be held that the lease as such has no value for taxation purposes. The thing is absolutely beyond me.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Daly) agreed to-
That sub-clause I be left out.
– I take it that, as a consequential amendment the remaining subclauses will be re-numbered. Will Senator Daly move an amendment to what is now proposed sub-clause 4, by adding the following words thereto : -
Or so as to affect any assessment which is the subject of any pending objection or appeal.
– Does that include objections that have been lodged?
– It is some time since I had the pleasure of earning fees by lodging these objections, but I remember the procedure as follows: - When an objection is lodged it is taken into consideration by the Commissioner of Taxation and, at his own sweet will, if he does not agree to it, it is treated as an appeal. It has been necessary occasionally to issue a mandamus to the Commissioner to take that course ; at a time, perhaps, when he was overwhelmed with work. Notwithstanding the very lucid explanation made by the Leader of the Government regarding the effect of the judgment in the Northampton Pastoral Company’s case, I cannot help feeling that all these people are in the same boat. I refer Senator Daly to those passages in the judgment which he has himself stressed. He put it to me before the luncheon adjournment that it was merely the method of valuation that was to be kept open. What does that method of valuation connote? It connotes a valuation under the then state of the law. The court has held that the department cannot value under the law as it then stood ; that such land is incapable of assessment.
That is the real kernel of the position. These are the words to which I referred last night and to which Senator Daly referred this morning -
This provision, in our opinion, is entirely inapplicable to a case where the tenure of the land is of uncertain duration, and where the future amounts of rent are at the date of valuation unknown, and unascertainable.
That is precisely the position of all the people who then gave notice of objection, and the passage of this suggested provision will act very harshly upon them. While the Northampton Pastoral Company has been fortunate enough to have its case tried, these people will be deprived of their rights.
I should like to know from the Leader of the Government if the real position is that the total amount involved is £333,000, but that £84,000 will be affected if the Government, so to speak, keeps its word. I am not impressed with the argument as to the amount concerned. It is a matter above that which affects the honour of the Government. I am afraid that it is proposed to cut away the rights of people whose cases would have been heard under the old statute next week. I admit that it may be difficult for the Government from a revenue point of view, but it is very difficult for me on moral grounds to differentiate between the man who has obtained a judgment and the man who is in process of having his case tried under the same statute. Although, owing to the exigencies of the financial position, we may be compelled to agree to this amendment, I shall do so reluctantly, because to interfere with the rights of parties is to act contrary to the principles of British jurisprudence, so often enunciated by Senator Daly. Many parties to litigation may not have gone to the length of the Northampton Pastoral Company, but if it were not for this legislation those whose cases are to be heard next week would simply walk into the court and the court would be bound by its judgment in the Northampton case. This bill, without the amendment I suggested, would deprive the parties of this right. The amount of revenue the Treasurer may lose may appeal to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), but not to me. We should touch a higher note in this matter, and I should like to hear howthe
Leader of the Senate can justify the present proposal. I should like to have an explanation of “ method of valuation,” upon which the Northampton case turned. The court said that it could not apply any method of valuation on the law as it stood; it could not attach any value to an individual’s interest in the pastoral lease. It seems to me that this legislature savours of a repudiation of something which has been promised to certain people. I am well aware that the Government has no intention of viewing it in that light, but unfortunately that is the effect it is likely to have if we commit ourselves to anything of this nature.
– I can assure honorable senators that there is not even a suggestion of repudiation about this bill, and if Senator McLachlan will apply his mind to the real facts surrounding its introduction I think he will be satisfied that the Government is not asking the Senate to do anything inconsistent with the principles which he has enunciated. The High Court had before it a test case, and if the method of valuation had been decided the three cases which are now listed for hearing before the High Court would have been further adjourned, so that the principle laid down in the Northampton case might be applied to them, and at the same time the department would have applied it to the assessments of people who are at present on the books of the department as prima facie liable to the payment of taxation amounting to over £250,000. In the Northampton Pastoral Company’s case the Commissioner of Taxation and the taxpayer approached the High Court on the assumption that it could assess, and in order to save a good deal of expense it was agreed by the Treasurer of the day that payment of the tax should be suspended pending the decision of the court. The latter, however, decided that as the law stood it could not. even make an assessment. It therefore did. not touch the question of the amount of tax which ought to be paid.
– In other words, the “method of valuation “ wasnot reached.
– Exactly, and even if the legislation now under consideration is agreed to by the Senate, three litigants now before the High Court and the people who are at present on the books of the department as prima facie liable for the payment of the amount of taxation I have already mentioned will not be affected in the matter of their valuations - their position will be no worse than it was prior to the introduction of this measure.
– This bill does not interfere with the method of valuation.
– That is the point. All that the bill does is to make the intention of the legislature clear that these people shall form one of the class of landtaxpayers.
– It is somewhat unfortunate that this was a test case.
– It was, but how often does the litigant go to court to have a matter decided on one issue only to find that it is decided on another issue altogether, with the result that he has the satisfaction of commencing proceedings all over again. There is no intention on the part of the Government to repudiate anything. All we ask is that Parliament shall settle the question of whether these people should be assessed. The matter of the outstanding assessments is for settlement between the department and the taxpayer, and I am instructed that the taxpayers’ rights at law are still open to them. This legislation will not affect them.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and an amended title; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time : -
Customs Tariff. : .
Customs Bill. : ‘ “ ‘
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 2S3) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the paper be printed.
– Last night when I asked leave to continue my remarks I was endeavouring “ to show that compulsory military service is not antagonistic or repugnant to AngloSaxon traditions. There is a wrong impression I think in the English-speaking world on that point, because when we examine history, a very useful thing to do, since history has a habit of repeating itself, we find that from 1300 to 1660- the years in which the founda-tions of the liberties we enjoy to-day were laid - compulsory service was a far greater reality in England than elsewhere. In the same way England was far ahead of other countries in the matter of civic freedom and political liberties. The bowmen at Crecy in 1346 were not volunteers ; they were compulsorily trained, and their skill was largely due to the severe training they had to undergo. The levies raised to meet the invaders, had the Spanish Armada succeeded, were compulsorily raised. When the great struggle took place between Parliament and the King the parliamentary levies were in the main compulsorily raised; and in the long struggle England had with France during the reign of King Louis XIV., when there was fighting in the East, on the Continent and in North America, compulsory service was in force in England. During the Napoleonic wars the bulk of the British troops were compulsorily raised; and again during the last terrible worldshaking struggle England and practically every country had to go back to compulsory as against purely voluntary service. It has always been the proud boast of our race - but a boast that has never been proved true in practice - that one British volunteer is worth ten pressed men, and many people appear to be under the impression that there has never been compulsion about service in the British army or navy. That is quite a fallacy. Britain has been almost continuously under some form of compulsion for its defence. The British common law still requires every man to come forward when called upon for home defence. This common law became part of the American law and made it possible for Washington and Lincoln to levy troops during the War of independence, and in the terrible struggle » between the North and South. In the civil war the North could not have been successful without compulsion.
To assert that compulsory service is alien to the Anglo-Saxon spirit is to ignore absolutely the teachings of history. Compulsion has to be adopted in every great national crisis. As a general rule, democracies have preferred the compulsory system for defence purposes. This thoroughly national, popular and efficient system has proved conspicuously successful in Switzerland, and it was giving good results in Australia. I have not yet heard any satisfactory reason advanced why universal training in Australia, which was not by any means as good as it might have been, but was the best we could get, has been discarded. On this point it is interesting to note that in the Labour Call of the 13th Marali, a copy of which was posted to mc the other day, there appears an interesting article on this subject. It states : -
The Federal Labour Government bus issued the following bulletin: -
. . A long discarded system of military training has been discarded With substantial savings, and a more satisfactory system substituted.
It would be laughable if it were not pathetic, to suggest that there has been any form of militarism in Australia. Our system of universal training was essentially democratic in character. Every officer in the citizen forces worked his way up from the ranks. It is absurd, therefore, to imply that it was in any sense allied to militarism. Every democracy, as I have stated, prefers some form of compulsion for the military training of its people, for the very adequate reason that under it all able-bodied citizens play their part in the scheme of national defence, and there is no possible risk of the creation of a military caste.
I should like honorable senators to study carefully the system in operation in Switzerland. Many reliable publications have been issued on the subject. One that is well worth study is written by Lieutenant-Colonel Radcliffe, and is entitled A Territorial Army in Being. Colonel Radcliffe spent two years in Switzerland studying the system from every angle and he is convinced that it is truly national in character, thoroughly efficient and exceedingly popular. During the Great War, Switzerland, with a population of only 4,000,000, was a striking object lesson to the world. Hemmed in as it was by the mighty German Empire, by Austria, Italy and France throughout that terrible conflict, it was not once threatened by any of the combatant, nations. No attempt, was made to use Swiss territory for the passage of cither French or German troops, for the very good reason that within 4S hours of the commencement of hostilitiesSwitzerland had mobilized a wellequipped and efficient army of 480,000 nien for its defence. No one can doubt there were times when the German military authorities would have liked to force a passage through Swiss territory if they dared. Likewise, there were occasions when the French, for similar reasons, would have been disposed to violate Swiss neutrality if they had dared to risk hostilities with that country. Thus we had the spectacle of a little nation in arms absolutely fearless of aggression. In the Swiss army there are only 490 professional officers - men whose business is soldiering pure and simple. The army itself comprises business and professional men, tradesmen, and in fact all grades of society. It may not be out of place if I read the following brief extract from Colonel Radcliffe’s publication -
As the popularity of the Swiss Citizen Army is based upon its thoroughly national character, so its efficiency is based on both. Enlisting all the business forces of the nation, it naturally summarized all the business ideas, ft would be difficult to find any commercial or industrial concern which is run on more strictly practical lines than the Swiss army. The time spent in training is not very much more than the training course of the British Territorial. One very good rough test of business’ management is - the test of economy. Switzerland spends on her army 8s. lOd. per head of the population or less than half what she spends on her education, probably the most thorough in the world.
For that small amount of expenditure Switzerland lias a remarkably- efficient national defence force. Democrats of all countries have been attracted by the system of military training in Switzerland as opposed to the conscript forms of service in most other countries. Military training in Switzerland is on a graduated scale. In the first year a man is required to undergo 90 days’ training, but this period is decreased in succeeding years until he goes into the reserve. Switzerland was obliged by force of circumstances to organize its defence, because over a long period of its history it had to fight desperately for its existence against outside opposing forces.
The system now in operation in that country has had the endorsement of the foremost students of sociology in all countries. Carnot was inspired by it in the building up of the magnificent citizen forces which saved the first French Republic. Radicals like Gaston Moch and Karl Bleibtrau, and socialist leaders like Jean Jaures. Vaillant and Bebel, were never tired of holding up the example of Switzerland to the people of France and Germany. Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill also explicitly recommended its adoption to meet the needs of the Mother Country. One important feature about, the system is that it is of inestimable value in developing the best that is in the youth of a country and in fostering a spirit of good citizenship. Service in the citizen defence forces of a nation makes for better citizenship. From this point of view, the abolition of the system in Australia must have most unfortunate results because we shall gradually lose that fine ideal of direct personal service by our young people which is the best test of citizenship. In 1865 John Stuart Mill, in his essay on Comte, wrote on page 14.9 -
Until laborers perform the work of industry in the spirit in which soldiers perform that of an army, industry will never be moralized, and military life will remain what, in spite of the anti-social character of its direct object, it has hitherto been, the chief school of moral co-operation.
Apparently, the Government does not intend to abandon entirely all defence measures, because it is proposed to establish a citizen army by voluntary enlistment. This army will probably be established on paper. But the question is whether even on paper we can have a force of 35,000 men by this means. That is the hare minimum number of officers and men that we need. The general opinion seems to be that we shall not be able to secure that number of enlistments. If some great national emergency arose to strengthen and stiffen our public spirit, that number of men might offer for service. But it will then be too late. As one who has endeavoured to assist this movement, I wish to say that it is very hard to get enlistments.
– I regret to say that they are not. But it is a very difficult thing to quench the enthusiasm of volunteer officers. It cannot be done by a stroke of the pen. The volunteer spirit has persisted since pre-federation clays. It has had many knocks. Bur there are still some enthusiastic, bighearted, far-seeing men who are prepared to sacrifice their time and money to encourage this movement, though they get very little thanks for it. But if the Government provides the necessary money, it is possible that we may be able to obtain a fair number of volunteers. If the general public shows that it is whole-heartedly behind the movement we may even succeed in obtaining the nucleus of 35,000 officers and men ; but, in my opinion, that is not enough.
In the long run it comes to this: Do the people of Australia desire any defence system? If they do not, they should be honest enough to say so. If they wish this country to he the prize ripe plum hanging upon the tree, ready to be picked by the first picker who comes along strong enough to pick it, let them say so. If this is not the general attitude of the people of Australia, they should insist on a defence force which exists in fact and not on paper and one which could fight to-morrow. A force which cannot fight when it is needed is of no use. If this country were invaded or threatened with invasion, who would suffer most? It would, of course, be the workers and the great mass of the people, because all our Arbitration Court awards and our living and working conditions would go by the board. It is not necessary to go very far back into history to find out what happens to a country which is not prepared to defend itself. To put it in the vernacular, such a country “gets it in the neck.” Korea would not defend itself, and it was simply absorbed by a powerful neighbour. To-day the Korean people are little better than serfs, for they have no rights whatever.
Last night an honorable senator asked me, by interjection, whether I believed in the League of Nations. I do most decidedly. I should like to see every honorable senator subscribe his fi a year to the branch of the League of Nations Union in his own State. I hope that Senator Hoare is a member of the South Australian branch. I believe in the League ; but after all it is only a machine or an instrument, and I am not at all sure that it could do any more to enforce obedience to its awards than we can do to enforce obedience to our Arbitration Court awards. If a nation said it would not obey the orders of the League, what could be done about it? Before we can completely rely upon the League, there must be a big change in heart among the nations. It is true that the Kellogg Peace Pact has been signed. Mr. Kellogg entered the harbour at Cherbourg while we were there on our way to Canada. The Kellogg pact is a solemn undertaking by the great nations of the world that they will cease utterly from war as a means of settling their disputes. Yet the war budgets of the nations which signed that pact are greater to-day than they were in 1913.
– With one exception - that of Great Britain. /Senator Sampson.
– , Americans budget is the greatest of all.
– Why are these war budgets so large? It is because suspicion, fear, jealousy and hate are still the dominant feelings of the leaders of the nations towards other nations. Until this is changed and the spirit of mutual trust and friendliness is developed, the pact must remain only a pious wish.
I have recently read a book entitled, “ 1914,” by a German named Emil Ludwig. He had access to the documents and papers of all the nations. His book is splendidly written, and shows clearly that while the people of the various nations had no desire for war, the nations themselves were steadily drifting towards it. To-day, in spite of the terrible conflagration, and the appalling misery, horror and impoverishment of the last war we seem to be heading in the same direction, and we may get there if we do not take .care. It is said that Australia has made a gesture of peace” by discarding militarism. That is absurd. The ideals of our citizen force were the teaching of good citizenship and the preparing, as far as possible, to resist aggression. We want nothing that is not ours. We want to be allowed to work out our own destiny, in our own way, in our own country. We cannot expect to get help under existing conditions unless we are prepared to do the fair, right and manly thing for ourselves. It is a poor crowd which is not prepared to fight for its women and to stand upon its own feet; but wants to lean in a loafing manner upon some one else. The system of training that we had was not perfect, but it had been starved. I smile now when I think of the mass of material I had prepared with the object of castigating the former Minister for Defence for neglecting to provide sufficient money for our defence force. The previous administration had cut things to the flesh and bone; but this Government has brought the whole skeleton down with a crash. The whole thing has been swept away holus bolus. This appears to have been done for the purpose of giving an advantage to a political party. It is a most regrettable and lamentable thing that we should refuse to do our duty to ourselves, and to the other members of the great commonwealth of nations to which we belong.
It is not popular or fashionable in these days to speak about the British Empire. We are a commonwealth of free nations; but I can see danger in that. For one member of the family may, by taking independent action, involve us in an impossible position. Apparently we want to be a free nation so that we can escape our responsibilities and avoid doing what we ought to do for the defence of Australia. Do our people concur in this attitude? If they do, it seems to me that our last shred of selfrespect has vanished, and that we stand naked and unashamed before all the world. The nationhood which we bought so dearly a few years ago at the cost of so much blood has been forfeited, because we want to be in the position of a kept woman who has a man to defend her. If this is not what we want, and we still desire some form of defence, I suggest that we should ask Great Britain to send a couple of her divisions to Australia on the condition that we pay for their upkeep while they are here. Australia would provide a magnificent training and manoeuvring ground for them, and they would give us some form of defence, not the sham we now have.
A great deal has been said about new and attractive uniforms. This talk “ cuts no ice “ with me. I used to say in Gallipoli and France.that I did not know whether it was by Divine Providence or a sheer accident that the buttons on the old Australian Imperial Force jacket were made of bone and not of brass. Had they been made of brass some fussy old fool of a “ brass hat “ would have met the boys as they returned from the line, and ordered them to spit on and polish up their brass buttons. We had a magnificent uniform in those days which was good enough for anything. It would certainly be good enough for to-day provided it was made of the same good material and was decently fitting. A uniform must be hygienic, serviceable and comfortable, and, generally speaking, one which will be of use in time of peace as in time of war. There is no need to adopt a type of uniform merely for active service, or one, the only feature of which is its attractive appearance. If I were unfortunate enough to become involved in a brawl and I saw two men approaching, one of whom was wearing a top hat, and the other was a burly fellow in his shirtsleeves, I should have no hesitation in selecting the latter as the one to whom I should look for assistance. I repeat that an attractive uniform which is not serviceable does not “ cut any ice “ with me and it seems regrettable that there are some in our midst who are disposed to despise the old Australian Imperial Force uniform. It seems to be the custom of some to refer to it in disparaging terms; but if those who speak in that way were to go to the East in that “ rig “ they would be respected, even if they were not loved. If they visited France, Belgium or Italy in the old Australian Imperial Force uniform, they would be received with the greatest respect by the people of those countries, and would, I am sure, have a wonderful time. Even in Germany, they would be respected, even if they were not liked. The old Australian Imperial Force uniform is one of which we should be proud, and we should foster that pride. I am pleased to know that the old hat, plus a puggaree, is to be retained. The jacket, I understand, will be somewhat similar with the addition, perhaps, of regimental badges. All that is needed is that simple inexpensive and decently fitting kit, plus a pair of slacks, instead of the ordinary breeches, so that the boys will be able to attend social functions, such as regimental dances, at which the old spirit of the Australian Imperial Force may be kept alive, in more comfort. As we all know the invader at the outset of the last great war, by a system of brutality, which is unparalleled in history, terrorized the whole civil population of the territory invaded. Should an invading army ever come to this country, probably similar methods would be employed, and I suggest to those who sneer at the old Australian Imperial Force uniform, that if a civil force were organized to repel the invader, many of those who would pick up a shot gun in order, perhaps to protect their daughters from being raped, would probably be stood up against a wall and shot by the firing party because they were not in uniform. That old Australian Imperial Force uniform might stand between them and a firing party.
On the 1st November last, we had in Australia an effective force of 2,638 officers exclusive of the instructional staff corps. We had also 7,08S non-commissioned officers and 37,83S men, which gave us a total strength of 47,564. In addition to that number, there were about 15,000 annually coming in and a similar number going out, after completing three years’ training. These men then went into a reserve force. We knew, to the day, the way in which the numbers were fluctuating. In November last, there were 16.713 cadets, but then came the destructive act. On 28th February, we had 2,660 officers, which is 22 more officers than we previously had, showing that the officers, to a man, came right into the new system. There were 4,935 non-commissioned officers, or a decrease of 2,153, and of the men actually enrolled, we had 14,352, or a reduction of 23,486. These figures give a total of 21,947, but the annual reserve that will be built up will be practically nil.
– There will bo no reserve.
– No. Although we previously had 16,700 cadets in training, we have now only 4,900, and it is going to be very difficult to increase that number. If we remain on the present mark, the system will result in an absolute waste of money. There will be sufficient to undertake some form of training, but unless they can he coached in tactical exercises with troops, it will be of little value. They can be taken to the barracks, and to the sand tables, instructed in topography and other subjects, but in the absence of troops they cannot be trained in the handling* of men. We must have troops to get officers and non-commissioned officers, because I submit that no military man is worth twopence until he has served in the ranks for a year or two. They must work up through the various grades in order to learn their job, but in the absence of troops that cannot he done. If we should find that the response is so poor that the Government will not help us, and the public is not behind us - that is most necessary - it would be better for the Government to be quite honest, and cut out the whole system. Owing to the paucity in numbers offering, we have what may be termed an imperfect instrument.
– And under seven men to an officer.
– That is about the proportion. Before concluding, 1 should like to inform the supporters of the Government in this chamber that I am a wholehearted believer in the League of Nations as an instrument for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. I cannot imagine any dispute, short of invasion, in which we must have resource to arms where a nation would not be willing to fight for its security. It is a poor dog which will not fight for its bone. What has been the result of this sudden destructive act on the part of the Government? It has not given us a chance to talk to the fellows with whom we were associated. The result of the Government’s action is that part-worn equipment in the form of thousands of pairs of boots, worn breeches, jackets and great-coats, have been returned. What arc we going to do with them ? We cannot reissue them. If they are sold they will be grabbed up by second-hand dealers. Thousands of sets of clothing and great-coats have been turned in, and we are also chasing lots of equipment that we may not recover at all. The action of the Government was so sudden that it did not give us an opportunity to talk with .these men. The cream of the men would he obtained in any case, but the chap we want to get is the one who is not, ordinarily imbued with the moral courage to serve. By careful handling we have found that in nine times out of ten, we can make better fellows of these men. I recall what occurred in 1911, when I was first associated with the universal training system and the howling rabble with which I was confronted. [Extension of time granted.’] I can also recall the entrapment, the journey, the detrainment at our last training camps, the fine physique, high spirit, keen intelligence, and splendid behaviour of the men with whom I was associated last year.
– No grousing?
– A little, but that is a soldier’s privilege. “ Growl you may, but go you must.” I remember the men with whom I was associated in 1911, when the drill hall was bombarded with road metal before they entered. Things were pretty tough at the start, but the particular crowd that I have in mind was, within eighteen months, the champion company in Tasmania. The following year, it came across to Melbourne and was placed third against the companies from five other States. The bulk of these men came from a part of one suburb, and wereknown as the swamp rats. They constituted a “ push “ element, and a person was very foolish if he went into their district alone after dark. But with the inauguration of compulsory military training that larrikinism disappeared, and the youths became keenly interested in the different competitions; so muchso that several police magistrates commented favorably on their reformation. I do not wish to be pessimistic, but I am afraid that before long the abolition of compulsory military training will have a retrogressive effect and that many youths will lapse again into larrikinism and “pushes.” Quite apart from a purely defence point of view, there is a good deal more in military training than mere military training. The ideal for which we should strive is to have a community coveting nothing that is not ours, yet one that is organized and ready to the last penny and the last man to defend what we now possess. I trust that honorable senators and the public generally will very seriously consider the present position of Australia in regard to its land defence.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bab) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twelfth Conference, held at Geneva, May-June, 1929 - Reports of the Australian Delegates.
International Labour Conference - Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted at Twelfth Session, Geneva, 1929.
Bill presented by Senator Daly, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on the motion by Senator Daly). read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.61]. - The matter of the salinity of certain farm lands has become a very vexed problem in some parts of the south of Western Australia. I have received the following letter on the subject from Mr. James C. Symes of Perth . -
As you so courteously replied to me a while ago re cluster pines, I make bold to trouble you again. I see in yesterday’s West that you are troubled on yodr farm with the encroaching salt water. Recently I handed the Agricultural Department - who I find are always courteous - a clipping from an Auckland paper of a grass grown in England and France in river estuaries. It is not only relished by stock and good for all, save dairy cows, but it also helps to prevent the encroachments of the sea. It is recommended by the highest authorities in England and France. Have got Mr. MacFarlane and others to take it up here, but I want the Federal Government to take it up, and, therefore, I turn to you. Trusting that you will find time to attend to the matter,
Yours respectfully, (Signed) Jas. C. Symes.
I notice in one of the journals of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that a branch of its activities covers the exchange of economic grasses with other countries. I ask Senator Daly if he will bring this letter under the notice of that council with a view to having the suggestion investigated, in collaboration with the Agricultural Department of Western Australia. It is important that an endeavour should be made to discover a grass that will prevent the encroachment of salt pan and, at the same time, provide fodder for stock. I shall leave the letter with the honorable senator.
– I shall certainly have the matter brought before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with a view to its making inquiries as to the efficiency or otherwise of the proposed method to overcome salinity of the soil.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300321_senate_12_123/>.