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Wednesday, 16 December 1914

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - If we were imposing an income tax, of course these lessees would be liable to pay, in common with others.

But this Bill is aimed directly at a particular class in the community, and it is not an isolated case. In our cities it is urged that men should go upon the land. Men go out into the country and lease land from the Crown, at a fair and just rent, for pastoral, or mining, or timber purposes, and the moment they put themselves in a position to spend their money, and. so develop the country, honorable senators on the other side follow them up. My honorable friends prate to the people of the countryabout the want of population and the necessity of establishing a farming and grazing community on the broad acres of the Commonwealth, but at the same time they pick out this very class as objects of special taxation, and give them just grounds for asking, " What inducement is offered to men to settle on the land? Had we not better go to some other country where this class of legislation does not exist?" I could approve of legislation treating all in the community on the same terms, but I do not see why, if I decline to go into the backblocks and invest money in the development of the country, I should escape a form of taxation to which I would be subjected if I had done so. It is already difficult to induce people to take up land in remote districts, and the Government, by this legislation, are adding materially to that difficulty. If there are any persons who should be given special concessions and advantages, they are those who are prepared to open up the country and fit it for the settlement of a large population in the future. One honorable senator has reminded us that people who take up land in remote districts look for roads and bridges, and the conveniences of civilization. They are not given half the facilities which they should be given. These men frequently complain, and with some reason, of the great public expenditure in the centres of population, whilst they are denied facilities which should be afforded them. We could not expect any men to go into the remote districts if we did not give them some means of access by road or rail to a market for the things they produce. It is a question whether, in this measure, the Government are not going beyond their powers under the Constitution. Fortunately, we have a High Court to determine that question. That Court will hold the balance fairly, and will not be influenced in its decision by the desire of Governments or of Parlia ments. Under section 13 of the principal Act, it is provided that land owned by a State shall be exempt from taxation. The Government here propose to tax the lessees of Crown land, and contend that that will not be a tax upon land owned by a State.

Senator Senior - The honorable senator's reasoning is rather fine. These lands have practically passed from the State when they are in the possession of the lessee. The Bill taxes the lessee's interest in the land, and not the interest of the State.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I remind the honorable senator that the freehold title to the lands remains with the State. The State Government gives the lessee but a limited right, of occupation. If the lessee is called upon to say who owns the land comprised in his lease, it will be found that the title rests with the Crown. It is true that, under the Bill, it is provided that the holder of a leasehold for a period of three years may be regarded as the owner of a freehold, but that can only be in the case of land that has gone into private hands. If I leased a property of which I possessed the freehold for the period of three years, or fifty years, it must come back to me at the termination of the lease. I part with it only for a limited period, but it is all the time land in the possession of an individual. This Bill proposes to deal with lands similarly in the possession of a State. I do not wish to unduly delay honorable senators in dealing with this measure. I have uttered my protest against it, and leave it at that for the present.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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