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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) .- We have just heard a city man, without any practical experience of the land, attempting to cure the ills of the country districts. He has been beating the air, because the federal land tax was abolished in 1953. The measure before us merely terminates the need for any one buying land to inquire whether any moneys are outstanding. However, I assume, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that you will permit me to answer some of the statements that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has made. Though he has beaten the air, and has not been helped by his inexperience, he has at least told us that if ever the Labour party regains the Treasury benches it will reimpose this penalty tax upon those who are producing badly needed commodities at the present time.

For the information of the honorable member I will explain what a land tax really is. It is an iniquitous tax because it is applied whether a man is making a profit or not. Secondly, it amounts to a tax on tools of trade, which is very wrong. Thirdly, it is a sectional tax. This is especially so in Queensland. I am not so cognizant of the position in the other States, but most of the land held in Queensland is under perpetual lease, which is not subject to taxation. Why, then, tax the few who have had sufficient initiative to buy their own land. The honorable member says that if we tax the land we shall get more farmers. I suggest that it will drive more farmers off the land. He said, further, that 32,000 farmers had gone to the city. That has happened because of the better returns offered elsewhere.

The White Paper reveals that the income of the primary producers is becoming less and less whilst the income of every other section of the community is rising. I am a primary producer . and can say that our income is less and our costs have gone up. The honorable member tells us to send people out to the farms, but what did Labour do in Queensland and New South Wales when this Government removed the land tax? The governments of those States reimposed it and increased fares and freights - another factor that is helping to drive people off the land. Naturally, those people say, " If we can get £20 or £25 in the city we will go there. We never earn that much on the land ". Twenty-eight per cent, of the price of primary products represents transport costs, which are made up of road taxes and road and rail freights between the farms and the capital cities.

The honorable member for Scullin suggests that the imposition of a land tax will result in greater production. I am afraid that he is very confused, and does not know what he is talking about. I am probably speaking outside the scope of this bill when I suggest that if other industries stabilized their costs in order to compensate the primary producer for his reduced income, we should probably persuade more people to go on the land. As a consequence, also, we might get a more stabilized economy.

The honorable member for Scullin also referred to collectivism in Russia. I do not wish to misquote him, but I understood him to suggest that, by having monopolies., we are developing that kind of community. Collectivism has been tried by the Queensland Government. Everybody knows of the Peak Downs experiment, under which farms were purchased in central Queensland. The result of the experiment was that the Government, over four or five years' operations, lost £1,500,000 of the taxpayers' money and then had to sell the property back to individuals. That is what collectivism does. The project was a complete failure. There must be individual initiative and practical experience in working the land. The honorable member is entirely wrong. I know that the intention is to avoid delaying the passage of this measure, but 1 want to assure the honorable member that the re-imposition of land tax would have the effect of reducing the numbers of land-holders and producers, instead of increasing them. If the policy of the Australian Labour party is to reimpose federal land tax, in Queensland and New South Wales at least - I do not know what the other States are doing - double land tax will be imposed on properties. The effect will then be the reverse of getting more men interested in achieving the production which is so much needed. As from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of our overseas exports are obtained from primary production, we must give primary producers every encouragement to try to reduce costs, and we must give them a sufficient area of land to make it worthwhile for them to buy tractors and machinery. Some of the smaller men who have not been able to compete or meet the labour costs involved in production have had to sell out to men who are able to buy sufficient extra land to enable them to install machinery and work their properties more economically and so produce more cheaply. That is the practical approach to the matter. We are receiving less income from primary production because costs are being heaped upon the producers in the form of increased freights, extra taxes, and higher labour costs, which they cannot pass on as a charge against the goods they produce. In addition, they face world export markets, which unfortunately for our economy and for the primary producers, tend to be on the downward grade. We have to accept a lower rate of remuneration, coupled with increased costs. Therefore, as a Government we stand for the abolition of land tax. We will never reimpose it because of its sectional and penalizing effect upon those persons who are doing such a good job for the country.







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