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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator SAYERS (Queensland) .- I am surprised at the speech of Senator Stewart, in view of the fact that when the Tariff was under consideration it was repeatedly urged by Protectionists that its effect would be to cheapen goods. The honorable senator supported the imposition of a very high Tariff, and in doing so placed a burden on the whole of the consumers of Australia. But our Protective

Tariff has not resulted in a decline of the_ Customs .revenue. On the contrary, it has" increased that revenue by leaps and bounds. That will always be the result of a high Protective Tariff. When the fiscal question was being debated here, it was pointed out that a vast quantity of goods was imported into Australia which it would not pay any man to manufacture locally. For instance, it would not be profitable for any individual to undertake the local manufacture of dress material such as is worn in Queensland. We know, too, that fashions change, and that an article which was originally priced at two guineas or five guineas may, perhaps, be bought for one guinea when it is no longer fashionable. Importers must make their profits quickly. Consequently, when we impose a duty of 40 per cent, on such articles, the revenue must increase. I would further point out that the cost of living has been materially increased by our Protective Tariff, and that, as a result, men belonging to labour organizations are claiming increased wages. They have to thank Senator Stewart for having increased their cost of living.

Senator Stewart - It is not the price of protected articles which have been increased.

Senator SAYERS - It is.

Senator Stewart - It is not the price of meat and wheat which has increased.

Senator SAYERS - The price of meat and wheat must increase proportionately to the increased cost of living.

Senator Stewart - A land tax will cure that.

Senator SAYERS - It will not affect it. It is not the large land-owners who produce wheat, onions, meat, and the necessaries of life. I should have liked the Government to inaugurate a better system of immigration. Honorable senators opposite are constantly declaring that we ought to provide for the land requirements of our own people before bringing immigrants to the country, and, to a certain extent, I agree with them. But I hold in my hand a booklet which has been issued by the "Department of External Affairs. It is signed by Mr. E. L. Batchelor, the Minister controlling that Department, and is dated the 15th August of the present year. From it I learn that in nearly every State land may be secured at a very cheap rate.

Senator Stewart - Then there is no land monopoly.

Senator SAYERS - According to this publication, there is no land monopoly.

Referring to Queensland, under the heading of "Agricultural Homesteads," it states -

Under this mode of selection the area varies with the value of the land, namely, 160 acresin the case of land valued for agricultural farms at not less than £1 per acre -

I do not suppose that anybody will contend that that is a high price to pay for agricultural land - 320 acres in the case of land valued at less than £1, but not less than 15s. per acre ; and 640 acres in the case of land valued at less than 15s. per acre. The price of the land is 2s. 6d. per acre, the annual rental 3d. per acre, and the term ten years.

I think that that is a very good advertisement for Queensland. If land monopoly does exist, where is the fact evidenced, so far as Queensland is concerned? I know that in my own State land can be obtained in the areas mentioned, and at the price stated, and I am very pleased that the Government intend broadcasting that information to the world.

Senator Vardon - The honorable senator is using Hansard to advertise Queensland.

Senator SAYERS - I will also advertise the State which the honorable senator represents. The publication continues -

Personal residence is required until the land is made freehold, which can be done after five years by the payment of the balance of the purchase money.

All payments of rent are credited towards the purchase money and on proof that the sum expended on improvements on the land has been at the rate of ios., 5s., or as. 6d. per acre, respectively, according to the price of the land.

Under the heading "Free homesteads," we are told -

The area under this mode must not exceed 160 acres. The term is five years, during which period the selector must occupy the land by personally residing on it, and must effect improvements to the total value of ios. per acre. Farmers in Great Britain and elsewhere may arrange to secure areas suitable for general farming, wheat growing, dairying, or other productive purposes prior to their departure to Queensland. In such cases application must be made to the Agent-General for Queensland, Marble Hall, the Strand, London, who, on being satisfied with the bona fides of the application, will set aside an area which will be reserved until the applicant has an opportunity of inspecting it. If for any reason the area thus reserved is found to be unsatisfactory, the applicant, without forfeiture of any deposit, may seek another area, but he will have no prior right to applicants already in the State to such fresh areas.

In the face of these statements, where is the lack of land upon which to settle immigrants ? That there is a wealth of land available for the purpose is vouched for by the Government. It is true that a scarcity of land may exist within 8 or 10 miles of Sydney or Melbourne. But surely all the people do not wish to reside close to our cities. According to Senator Stewart, we ought to do everything possible to foster our manufactures. Personally, I would rather have more primary producers and fewer factories. The best defence of a country is to be found in the existence of a sturdy yeomanry.

Senator McGregor - Hear, hear.

Senator SAYERS - The Vice-President of the Executive Council may say, " Hear, hear!" in a sarcastic manner; but, if he is familiar with the history of his own country - he professes to be a Scotchman, but I sometimes doubt his statement - he must know that the manhood of Scotland in time of need came from the country, and not from its large towns. If we wish adequately to protect Australia, we must assist people to settle upon its lands.

Senator McGregor - There are not many persons settled on the lands of Scotland now.

Senator SAYERS - I quite agree with that statement. I would rather see fourfifths of our population settled upon the land, and only one-fifth resident in the towns, than see four-fifths resident in our cities and only one-fifth settled upon the land. But neither the present nor previous Governments have attempted to realize that ideal.

Senator Ready - A Federal land tax will help to bring it about.

Senator SAYERS - The honorable senator makes an interjection about a Federal land tax. He may not be very venturesome, but there are_ people in his own State who have not been content to sit down behind the counter of a store in a little country place, but have preferred to come over to the mainland and fake up land in Queensland. We do not, in Australia, want people who are content to earn 15s. a week behind a shop counter in some huckstering business. The men who will advance the interests of this country are those who will strike out for themselves, as many of our forefathers did.

Senator Ready - There is not much chance in a State where 1,400 people own nine-tenths of the land.

Senator SAYERS - Tasmania is a mere bagatelle in comparison with all Australia. The pamphlet from which I am quoting supplies some information with regard to Western Australia -

Conditional . purchase by direct payment -

From 100 to 1,000 acres at from 10s. per acre, payable within twelve months.

No one will say for a moment that that is a high price to pay for land. A thousand acres can be obtained for £500.

Senator de Largie - The price has gone up now.

Senator SAYERS - This pamphlet is dated 10th August, and I do not think that the honorable senator can have much later information than the Minister of External Affairs bad.

Senator de Largie - Western Australia is finding that the land is more valuable than was supposed-

Senator SAYERS - Even at £1 per acre the price would not be high. If a man could get 500 acres for £500 it would not be a high price. We are also informed -

Land for orchards, vineyards, or gardens -

From 5 to 50 acres, from 20s. per acre, payable in three years. Improvements : One-tenth cultivated as a garden or orchard, including fence or boundaries, to be completed in three years. The Minister may, in his discretion, permit any lessee to substitute in lieu of fencing any other prescribed improvement of equal value.

No one will tell me that land is scarce in that State, or that excessive land values are preventing people from settling there. Consequently the statement is not true of either Western Australia or Queensland. What is the state of things in New South Wales? We are told that -

Land that is suited to wheat growing combined with grazing will fetch from £2 to ^5 an acre -

That is not a very high price in a State like New South Wales. Surely no honorable senator can say that land is locked up and that none is to be procured when the Government are prepared to find land for settlers at such prices as vouched for by the Minister of External Affairs in the present Ministry - whilst land that is best adapted to dairying and maize growing will bring from £4 up to ^'20 per acre.

I take it that that refers to the Northern rivers, and to lands close to the coast, growing lucerne, maize, and other products for dairy farming. I am told that in two or three years a man would be able to clear off the- whole price of that land. I have it from a gentleman in Victoria that, in one year, a farmer in this State bought 1,200 acres of land, which was fallowed when he purchased if, paying £9 per acre. The first wheat crop that he got off it- a yield of between 30 and 40 bushels to- the acre - pretty well paid off the cost price of the land, "in face of such facts it cannot be said that land is extraordinarily dear even in Victoria.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator knows that that statement is not true.

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