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Wednesday, 16 December 1914

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - I sincerely hope that the common sense of honorable senators will prevent them from accepting the amendment of Senator Lynch. I will show what diversified conditions prevail in this very big country. Nearly every timber lease of any importance which has been given in Tasmania has been given very largely for the purpose of inducing closer settlement, the very object which the land tax is designed to secure. In almost every case the timber lease contains conditions enjoining on the lessee the necessity of preparing and returning to the Crown from year to year certain areas of land in a condition suitable for closer settlement.

Senator Mullan - That will be taken into consideration, will it not?

Senator BAKHAP - How do we know that it will ? It is my duty, on behalf of Tasmania, to make a protest at this juncture. Its senators know very well that not more than two or three years ago a timber lease was granted in the Scottsdale district for the very purpose of assisting and promoting the welfare of the settlement scheme which had been promulgated by the Crown and to help the settlers on the Crown land which was being prepared for settlement to sell their timber to a timber company which was about to be established. Most stringent conditions were imposed on the company in regard to returning to the State, for the purpose of enlarging the areas for settlement, certain lands from year to year properly cleared and suitable for closer settlement. The best thing the Commonwealth can do, if it really wants revenue, and desires to pick up money in this way, is to introduce later an income tax, and then if these leases have any practical value in the way of providing dividends, the lessees can be called upon to make an equitable contribution to the cost of carrying on the war or to the national revenue resources. . But to impose a tax on people who occupy their land because of the necessity of clearing the rugged lands of our State for the purpose of closer settlement is something against which I must make a protest here, even if it is not likely to be effective.

Senator Lynch - What is the difference between an income tax, to which you are agreeable, and this?

Senator BAKHAP - An income tax will take nothing from these people if they are not making a profit.

Senator Mullan - This will not, in my opinion.

Senator BAKHAP - We do not know how the proposal will be worked. I must confess that it is very hazy, and I believe that Ministers are very hazy as to what the effect of this tax on lease values will be-. The Minister of Defence has said that he believes that in regard to mining leases it -will in no case produce any revenue. What caused him to make that statement ?

Senator Lynch - I do not know the position in Tasmania, but I know that in Western Australia there is a perfect rush to get hold of these lands.

Senator BAKHAP - In Tasmania there is no timber company which is working at a profit. Mills involving the expenditure of thousands of pounds have been erected, and although they have done a good deal in the way of clearing the country, and, perhaps, making it ultimately available for closer settlement, they have not been worked at a profit.

Senator Ready - If not, they will not pay anything over the economic rent.

Senator BAKHAP - How do we know?'

Senator Long - They have been working for fun for the last ten years !

Senator BAKHAP - In making these timber leases subject to land tax we shall defeat the object of the State Governments, especially that of Tasmania, in granting these special leases.

Senator Ready - Subject to taxation only under certain conditions.

Senator BAKHAP - I venture to say that no Minister will commit himself to the construction of the language of this clause and its ultimate effect. I do not propose to divide the Committee, but if we had a few more honorable senators on this side I would. I trust, however, that the Committee will not consent, to the amendment. I would have expected something more from Senator Lynch. He has been a miner ; yet we have introduced a proposal to tax the value of minerals undisclosed, and so on. The honorable senator knows that it is a hazy and very impracticable scheme. Yet for the purpose of throwing this drag-net he asks honorable senators, not only to consent to a clause which taxes rnining leases, but to include therein timber leases, which in connexion with the development of my State have been granted for a special purpose.

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