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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- I do not want to prolong the debate, but I desire to make a few remarks. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has fully explained the objects of the bill, which are very simple, but the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) made the debate so wide in its scope that his remarks need some reply. The honorable . member for Fisher need have no doubt at all about Labour's attitude on the reimposition of land tax.

Mr Bryant - Hear, hear!

Mr TURNBULL -" Hear, hear! " says an honorable member opposite. In the debate on the measure which abolished land tax some years ago, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that the only fault that they found with land tax prior to its abolition was that it was not high enough. If we wanted any more evidence of that, we need only have listened to the speech made by the Labour representative who discussed the bill to-night. He made one or two remarks which are very enlightening. He said that Labour is against all monopolies of any kind. I thought that my interjection was fairly appropriate when 1 asked, " What about the banking legislation, when the Chifley Government tried to make a monopoly of banking in this country? " Surely to goodness it is known that Labour was not against such a monopoly as that! Has Labour changed its attitude? Is it now against a monopoly of banking? Has it gone right away from the policy of the late Mr. Chifley when he introduced his bill to nationalize banking? If Labour has not changed its attitude, the honorable member for Scullin was quite wrong in saying thai it is against any form of monopoly. We know that that suggestion is not right. The contents of the honorable member's speeches are generally accurate. He is a friend of mine, but I think he has been misguided in his enthusiasm and perhaps he did not intend to convey an untruth. Nevertheless, the facts prove that he was incorrect on this subject.

He started by saying that land tax, if re-applied, would make more people settle on the land. I doubt very much whether that would be so, for the same reasons as have been stated by the honorable member for Fisher. That policy was tried in the past and it did not make more people go on to the land. If there are some people in Australia - and doubtless there are - who have large areas of land which are not being fully used, they are, on the whole, remarkably wealthy people, otherwise they could not possibly afford to have that land not fully productive. That is a logical conclusion. The position is, therefore, that they could not be forced by taxation to sell that land without the tax adversely affecting others. The honorable member for Scullin worked slowly round to his real point. First, he said that the imposition of land tax would result in greater settlement on the land, and decentralization of population from certain cities which he mentioned. I. think that that contention is altogether wrong. He gradually worked round until he got to the point of saying that a meeting of all authorities, State and Federal, should be called. What was the idea that he had in view? It was not the idea of taxing. With Labour the main objective is forcible acquisition, which Labour favours in relation to soldier settlement in New South Wales, and which Labour includes in its policy and it would adopt the course advocated to-night by the honorable member for Scullin.

The problem of fewer workers on the land to-day has been discussed so often in this House that 1 should think that you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, would advise me not to engage in tedious repetition if I were to dwell on it too much. Let me say only that there is not the slightest doubt in the world, as I have pointed out even in this sessional period, that with the bulk handling of wheat and other commodities, tractors, and other big machinery, much more can be produced with fewer men. The surplus labour should then be available for other avenues of industry, which should be for the benefit of this country. 1 do not want to go into detail. I do not think for one moment that there is anything in the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Scullin. I can assure him, as the honorable member for Fisher said truly, that the Australian Country party stands definitely opposed to any reimposition of land tax, the only effect of which would be to hinder primary production in this country.

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