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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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The PRESIDENT - Order ! The Vice-President of the Executive Council must withdraw that statement.

Senator McGregor - I withdraw it. and say that the statement is not correct.

Senator SAYERS - I (]0 not think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council used the word "untrue'' in an unfriendly fashion. I had these facts from a gentleman to whom I can introduce the honorable senator this afternoon.

Senator Guthrie - Thirty bushels at 4s. a bushel, would only yield £6.

Senator SAYERS - The honorable senator is a very good judge of " sailorizing " and certainly talks a lot about that subject; but I do not think he is a good judge of farming. If he were, he would know that a man on a wheat farm with 1,200 acres grows other things than wheat. He raises cattle and pigs, and probably goes in 'for dairying. My informant vouched for the fact that this land-owner, with a yield of about 35 bushels to the acre, paid for his land in two years.

Senator Guthrie - He could not have done that out of wheat-growing.

Senator SAYERS - I do not think that the honorable senator knows very much about wheat-growing. I do not profess to know, much about it myself, though I do understand mining. I am simply relating facts that were supplied to me by a gentleman who, I am sure, was not misleading me. What does the official pamphlet say about Victoria ? - lt is somewhat difficult to fix average prices at which privately-owned lands may be purchased for agricultural purposes in any of the above districts.

The districts being the Metropolitan Western. Central, Wimmera, Mallee, Northern, North-Eastern, and Eastern (Gippsland) -

Land suitable for market gardening in the brighton and Mordialloc districts, ranges from ^'20 to ^50 per acre.

That, of course, is land in close proximity to Melbourne. The Brighton district is, indeed, part of Melbourne -

Good fruit-growing land can be obtained in the Doncaster and Diamond Creek districts from £to to £20 per acre.

Senator Guthrie - What about the price of land at Bacchus Marsh ?

Senator SAYERS - That is land which has been in a high state of cultivation foi many years. The honorable senator's own Government is responsible for these statements.

Senator Vardon - The honorable senator is quoting the gospel according to Batchelor.

Senator SAYERS - Yes.

Senator Guthrie - No; as supplied to Mr. Batchelor.

Senator SAYERS - I am quoting from a book published under the auspices of this Government.

Senator Guthrie - On information supplied.

Senator SAYERS - The book is signed by Mr. Batchelor, and has been distributed throughout the world.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - With the authority of the Government.

Senator SAYERS - I have said so.

Senator Fraser - The statements are quite correct.

Senator SAYERS - If honorable senators opposite choose to dispute the authority of their own Government, they have a right to do so. As to the Western District of Victoria, this official pamphlet says -

The rainfall of the Cressy portion of this district is about 23 inches per annum ; the land is practically clear of timber, easily cultivated, and moderate in price, ranging from ^5 to £y per acre.

Senator McGregor - That is true.

Senator SAYERS - Then, what justification is there for the cry that we cannot have immigrants until we impose a land tax? I have proved that in Western Australia and Queensland-

Senator Stewart - That is only rubbish.

Senator SAYERS - If so, it is rubbish that comes from the honorable senator's own Government.

Senator Stewart - I cannot help that.

Senator SAYERS - This must be a " rubbishing " Government, according to the honorable senator's own statement -

Around Hamilton and Casterton the price of land varies from £8 to £15 per acre, and on the rich volcanic land around Camperdown, Colac, and Warrnambool, from £\2 to ,£40 per acre.

Senator Findley - More like from £12 1:0 £I3° per acre.

Senator SAYERS - Why did not the honorable senator have that statement put in the pamphlet? Why does he try ,to throw cold water on a document issued on his own authority as a member of the Ministry ?

Senator McGregor - The statement is near enough to the truth.

Senator SAYERS - A statement that is merely " near enough " to the truth is issued by this Government -

Farms of great fertility in the Koroit and Tower Hill districts have been sold at higher prices. In the Cape Otway forest district, partially cleared, land ranged from £3 to £12 per acre.

Where, then, is the evidence of high and extortionate prices for land, even in Victoria, which is more thickly populated than any other State? Evidently, land is to be acquired.

Senator Stewart - Oh, it is very cheap ! It is dirt cheap.

Senator SAYERS - Anyhow, this document has been published to the world under the authority of the present Government, which Senator Stewart supports. Too great stress cannot be laid upon that fact. Let me quote the prologue of the pamphlet, which is signed by Mr. Batchelor, Minister of External Affairs. He says -

In extending to farmers and farm-workers an invitation to take advantage of opportunities that exist for prosperous settlement in Australia, the Government of the Commonwealth wishes to make it clear that there is no desire to discriminate against other classes of settlers.

Agriculturists are specially invited and assisted to come to Australia, because it is considered that in a progressive young country, with so much territory proved to be suitable for the growth of produce for which there is everincreasing demand in local and oversea markets, such settlers will advance the interests of the country and of themselves.

The' contents of this book have been compiled from information furnished by responsible authorities, to whom this opportunity is taken of expressing the thanks of the Government of the Commonwealth.

Senator Givens - That is all quite true. It 'was issued in anticipation of the land tax.

Senator SAYERS - That preface was signed on the 10th August, so that the book must have been compiled long before that date. But, admitting for the sake of argument that the interjection is correct, that gives the price of the land at that date. The honorable senator knows that in Queensland land can be got, even free homesteads. How could this book be written in anticipation of the land tax? It would be the worst thing which the Government could do if the object were to uphold the arguments in favour of the tax.

Senator Givens - Can the honorable senator tell me where I can get a free homestead in Queensland?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould d-. - There is any quantity of Crown land ir> Queensland, and good land, too, foi: settlers.

Senator Givens - It is not free. Senator SAYERS. - It is so stated m the book.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - It can be got for a few shillings per acre.

Senator Givens - That is overrun with prickly pear.

Senator SAYERS - According to the book, a person can get 160 acres of land free. Let me now take South Australia.

There are 19,345 square miles of pastoral) land open for selection. The price of agricultural land varies considerably, according to. locality, class of soil, and average rainfall. Good farming land, with a reliable rainfall, and improved, is in great demand at prices from £4 to £20 per acre, and, occasionally, higher. Crown lands, principally scrubby, from, 2s. 6d. to £2 per acre; land repurchased and allotted for closer settlement from about £3 to £5 per acre.

Honorable senators will find that in South Australia, the" price of land is not extortionate. I do not suppose for a moment that if a man bought land forty years ago at £t an acre he would make a profit of is. per acre if he got from £3 to £5 per acre, because the interest on the outlay for that period would represent a considerable sum.

Senator Guthrie - The man would have been getting crops off the land.

Senator SAYERS - He would have obtained a profit. The quotation con'tinues -

The rentals vary for Crown lands from 2 per cent, to 4 per cent, on purchase money. For garden land in gullies and hill slopes of the Mount Lofty Ranges, where there is a good rainfall, prices vary from £5 to £100 or more per acre. Grazing or pastoral leases are at rentals from the Crown of from about is. 6d. to £2 per square mile. Dairying land for dairying purposes, i.e., in most cases, land on which lucerne could be grown, varies from ^20 to £100 an acre, and with rentals at from £t to £10 per acre. In some instances, as at the Reedbeds, rentals are as high as ^15 per acre. The prices for good grazing land suitable for. dairy cattle are much the same as those for agricultural purposes.

In very isolated places - in small areas like Bacchus Marsh, or the Reedbeds, some of them being plentifully endowed by nature, the values may be high, but the holders are mostly persons with small areas who want a big price. The land has been cultivated and manured, and, of course, it will bring a high price. The new settler can take up land on which he can make a living at a far more reasonable price. He would not have capital enough to buy 100 acres at from £50 to £100 an acre.

Senator Guthrie - It is the cheapest in the long run.

Senator SAYERS - It might be if the new settler had the capital, but that is not always the case. If the Government believe what is stated in the book, as I do - and I know that in a great many instances concerning Queensland it is true - they should ask for a little more money with which to bring out persons, and settle them. We have been told that the Commonwealth has been very prosperous for the last five or six years. I believe that it has been. I am satisfied that we have never had more prosperous years in our history, but we do not find a great influx of people. We hear that Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia, and, I believe, New Zealand, are bringing out immigrants at their own expense. What the Commonwealth ought to do is to select a suitable class of immigrant to go on the land: With an overflowing Treasury they should not hesitate for a moment to carry out a vigorous policy of that kind. We have vast spaces still unsettled. We talk about taking over a Territory half as large as Europe is, yet we do not hear a word of a scheme for bringing out immigrants. We are simply left in the dark. The revenue is going up by leaps and bounds, but the Government remain silent on this question. For our system of defence we need immigrants. We shall be asked to-day to appropriate money for defence, yet we hear not a word about bringing out any persons to assist us in that regard. We can find money for various other purposes, but the question of an immigration policy is put off from day to day. According to a return which has been presented to the Senate at my instance, the annual rental of the Patent Office in Melbourne is £1,100. I should like the Minister to see if he cannot get that amount reduced.

Senator Guthrie - They need a lot of room.

Senator SAYERS - It is a pure waste of public money.

Senator Guthrie - They want, a lot of room.

Senator SAYERS - -Does the honorable senator know where the Patent Office is;?

Senator Guthrie - I have been through it.

Senator SAYERS - Where is it?

Senator Guthrie - I do not know where it is now, but the honorable senator knows the accommodation which they want.

Senator SAYERS - The Patent Office is now situated in the Victorian Railway Station Buildings, in Flinders-street. There is not much room for the officers. An annual rental of £1,100, at 3J per cent., represents a capital of £31,427. Is it not shameful that the Commonwealth should be required to pay that sum' every year for the accommodation of a few clerks? It is one of the most disgraceful facts which, are disclosed in the return. The officials in connexion with the Department were so over-tired with work that they furnished the return, not to the Senate alone, but. to the other House, without taking the trouble to set out the total sum which is paid irc rentals. I have been twitted by the members of another place with calling for a return without the additions being made. It is a disgraceful exhibition by public officers. If a return I move for is ever presented in that fashion again I shall try to see what can be done. In this return' we get three batches of figures, but not one batch is added up as should have been done. The duty of public officers is tofurnish a correct return in the form asked for. The rents we pay represent a capital value of £542,857.

Senator Findley - Is the honorable senator referring to one State or to all the States ?

Senator SAYERS - To three States. InMelbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, we pay. between £19,000 and ,£20,000 in rents. What are we paying all over the country to the States, or, in many instances, toprivate individuals? The Rialto, in Collinsstreet, Melbourne, is, I believe, a private property, and if its owner got nothing else but the Government rental he would" be well paid. I should like the Minister to tell us what we pay £1,100 a year to the Victorian Government for in connexion with the Patent Office. I must blame the present Government for that act, but not for all the acts which are disclosed in thereto rn.

Senator Findley - I think that the arrangement was made by a previous: Administration

Senator SAYERS - I shall not dispute the honorable senator's statement, becauseI have been unable to ascertain the facts.

Senator Guthrieinterjected that he knew where the Patent Office is. but as it has just been removed I took it that the arrangement was made by the present Government. Whichever Government is responsible for this waste of public money 1 enter a protest, as I hope, Parliament will do. Fancy a building worth £31.427 being rented for the Patent Office !

Senator St Ledger - And that waste will continue until we get the Federal Capital.

Senator SAYERS - I notice a number ot significant things in the return. The vent of the Commonwealth Offices and the Commonwealth Treasury is only £450 a year. Yet, for the Patent Office, we pay £1,100 a year. Is that fair or right? Perhaps, in Committee, the Honorary Minister will be able to furnish an explanation. I notice, too, that the Stock Exchange Post Office, in Collins-street, Melbourne, costs the Department £551 a year.

Senator Fraser - It is a very valuable, and very central building; a very large business is done there.

Senator SAYERS - That is quite true, but the honorable senator is also aware that very high land values obtain, near the Royal Exchange, in Pitt-street, Sydney, yet the Sydney Exchange Post Office costs the Department only £200 a year. How can any man defend such use of public money as I have revealed ? Let honorable senators compare the floor space in the buildings which are both conveniently situated in a leading public street, and ask themselves why one is worth £380 more than the other a year.

Senator Fraser - Pitt-street is not equal to Collins-street.

Senator SAYERS - Senator Fraser cannot look beyond Melbourne in such matters, but there are honorable senators who do not come either from Melbourne or Sydney, and so can take an unbiased view of them. I think that the property in the one place is as valuable as that in the other, and I do not see why £350 more should be charged for a post-office in Collins-street, Melbourne, than is charged for a post-office in the Stock Exchange, in as good a position, in Sydney. I do not accuse the present Government of blame in this matter, but I direct their attention to the facts, and I hope that they will see that justice is done to the taxpayers, and that their money is not wasted in this way. The payment for a room in the Melbourne Stock Exchange at the rate of two-and-a-half times as much as is paid for a similar room in the Sydney Stock Exchange cannot be defended on any ground whatever, nor can any one defend the payment of more rent for the Patent Office in Melbourne than for the Commonwealth Offices and Treasury Offices combined. The return from which I have quoted will be circulated, and people will want to know why these things are done. If previous Governments have been to blame in the matter, I ask that the present Government shall rectify the wrong. That is the principal matter on which 1 desired to speak. 1 may think it well to refer to a few of the items of the schedule when the Bill is in Committee. In view of the state of the revenue, and of the fact that we are proposing to take over a large tract of country, and that, according to the Minister of External Affairs, land is available for settlement at reasonable prices, I hope the Government will try to do something to fill up the vacant spaces of Australia.

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