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Wednesday, 26 November 1941


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) . - The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) apparently disagrees with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), because he refers to this tax as being a capital tax, whereas the honorable member for Watson said that it was not.


Mr Morgan - It is not a proper capital tax. I suggest that the rate should be increased in order to make it a real capital tax. It is a step in the right direction.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - It cannot be denied that this is a capital tax. It must be paid regardless of whether or not the taxpayer makes a profit from his land. I listened with appreciation to what the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said, and he accurately described the position of the man on the land. I repeat that this tax has to be paid regardless of whether or not income is received from the land. A farmer is still liable under this measure even although he makes no profit he has to pay federal land tax, state land tax, district rates, Federal and State income tax, and other dues. For that reason this tax is a bad one. I realize, of course, that we are at war and that it is up to everybody to make the best possible effort. We all have a stake in this land, and I should not cavil even at an unjust tax so long as everybody had to pay a share of it. But this tax will affect only the relatively few people who have land valued at more than £25,000. It is some consolation to know that the tax will produce some revenue for war purposes. In addition, I regard the imposition as so undesirable that it gives me some satisfaction to know that it will apply to relatively few people. However, I shall have a word or two to say about that aspect of the matter later. The tax affects both state and country property, mid three-quarters of the taxpayers who will have to meet this imposition are city landowners. No doubt an endeavour will be made to pass it on in some way or other. When a large concern or a wealthy individual has to pay taxation in any form, an endeavour is usually made to pass on as much of it as possible. Like country property, most city holdings are practically unsaleable at present, and it is rather hard that a man who cannot sell his land should he desire to do so, except at a great sacrifice, should have to pay a tax assessed on a figure which is much more than the true value of the property. The position in the country is very much worse. It is true that a relatively small number of people will be hit by this tax, but to some degree they are the same people who will be hit by the recent heavy forms of taxation, such as the company tax, income tax, &c. I realize that that is the deliberate intention of the Government, and is not something which is merely accidental. I represent a country electorate which is larger than Italy, and nearly as largo as France. I have travelled extensively through my electorate, and I know of few men in it who are making great profits out of their land. There may be a few score, but the number is not very great. The point I wish to make is that few apparently wealthy land-owners are making their money out of their land. They are drawing their incomes from dividends on industrial shares, and so on, and are putting much of that money into their holdings. That is the true position, and it may be verified by any honorable member who chooses to make inquiries. For many years past it has been a popular impression among honorable members opposite that landholders, large or small, derive great wealth from their holdings, and it must come as a surprise to them to learn that many property-owners depend upon income which they derive from other sources. Around such places as Marree, in the north of my electorate, there are many capable farmers who opened up that district years ago and who., it is said, have never been well enough off since to get away from it. And so it goes on from the salt bush country, through the marginal areas to the wheat areas, and beyond. As the honorable member for Deakin quite rightly said earlier to-day, the impact of high costs of production is making the position of the man on the land an impossible one, even although he may have a large property. That is partly the effect of war conditions. The honorable member instanced the case of wool. Since the war began our wool clip has been compulsorily acquired for sale to the British Government, and in contrast to what several honorable members opposite have said, I venture to say that our woolgrowers are profoundly fortunate to be able to dispose of their product so easily as they are doing at present. Undoubtedly they will not make huge profits out of the present contract, but they are fortunate to have some return for their products at all. Very few countries could possibly take it, though Germany would be pleased to do so. The land-owners have been referred to as the section of the community which has the most to lose in this war, but I do not agree with that. Bather would I say that the poorer sections of the community had most to lose, particularly people living in the cities. I cannot understand why the attitude of the Labour party towards our defence has not been more active in the past, because the people who live in the capital cities, particularly on the sea-front, are obviously those who are in the greatest danger. It may well be that, although men are flowing into the cities in increasing numbers, and the country is becoming denuded of population, so that fencing and other improvements are being neglected, the time may come - we hope it will not - when the people of1 the city will, as tlie result of an attack, stream out into the country, and be very glad to find themselves there once more. Honorable members opposite may take pride in our land and fiscal policies since 1910, but I maintain that they have created an entirely artificial and lopsided structure. If those policies are continued there will be nothing to look forward to but a constant and increasing drift of the people from the land because, what with pests and bad seasons, even capable men have the very greatest difficulty in making a success of farming, and a great many fail. Thus they drift to the cities, and that is bad for Australia. If it is desired te make of this an industrial country, why should not all the industries be put down in Tasmania, for instance, and leave the rest of the country for pastoral and agricultural enterprise? It might be objected that this, too, would be a lop-sided arrangement. It. would be huddling people together, perhaps to an even greater degree than is the case to-day. It would render the people, and our secondary industries, more liable to attack than they are now, but at least we should have two compact compartments, so that those who wanted to use the land could do so, whilst the others would be free to huddle in massed communities. I do not oppose the measure, but 1 believe that this is a bad tax. It is not an equitable form of taxation, and I hope u at the time will come when it will be abolished.







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