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Thursday, 20 October 1910

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - The honorable senator who has just sat down has claimed credit for the Opposition in another place for improvements made in this measure. With our constitutional limitations, it is impossible to make a measure of this description perfect; but I do submit that, within the powers we possess, the Bill is entitled to be described, as Senator McGregor stated in his speech, as one of the most perfect pieces of political machinery ever introduced to a _ deliberative assembly. In connexion with most of the progressive measures which have been brought before this Parliament, by some means or other, we have always had brought under our notice the poor widow, or if not the poor widow, the poor shopkeeper. We have discovered now two different classes of poor persons, namely, the poor pioneer and the poo- landlord. We were told to-day by an honorable senator, who almost trembled at the statement, that some of these pioneers had gone out and bravely fought against the blacks to get possession of the soil. Although I have .always admired the sturdiness and the determination of the old pioneers, still, I never quite realized before to-day the position of the men who so kindly came to Australia and took possession of as much of its soil as possible, and most of whom are now living in ease and luxury, not as the result of their own energy and industry, but as the result of the growth of population and the energy and industry of the great masses of the people on the one hand, and the enterprise of governments, the construction of public works, and the expenditure of borrowed money on the other hand. All these things have gone to add to the unearned increment and wealth of the poor pioneers who, we are told, are likely to be forced into the Insolvency Court.

Senator Long - Many of them did not even pay their passages out.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Very many of them did go into the Insolvency Court, quite true. It is also true that in this

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That is country some men have been in gaol ; but it is not true that all men are going to be in gaol. It is not correct to assume that, because an odd individual has failed, perhaps through bad management or ill fortune, that land has not been the best investment we have had in Australia. I desire to say a few words regarding the pioneers. I hold in my hand a very interesting publication, from which I propose to read some extracts for record in Hansard, as an illustration of the sort of martyrdom which has been suffered by the poor pioneers, who, as Senator Fraser said to-day, were prevailed upon by the Crown to take up land because it wanted money. It is dated so far back at 1879, since when land values have increased very greatly -

The ground in Collins-street west on which the Criterion Hotel formerly stood (allotment 16 of section 4 on original plan), was sold, on the rst June, 1837, by the Government to Michael Pender for the sum of £19. The same allotment was resold about a year ago to the Union Bank for ^33,000, . being at the rate of about ^500 per foot frontage to Collins-street. As the buildings were removed immediately after the purchase, this sum may be taken to represent the net value of the land. This is no less than 173,584 per cent, increase in fortyone years -

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Did the pioneer who paid £19 get the £33,000

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am quite aware of what is in the honorable senator's mind ; and I shall deal with it in a moment - or at the rate of 4,233 per cent, per annum.

The pioneers, who we are told suffered a martyrdom, saw their lands increasing in value at the rate of over 4,000 per cent, per annum. Let me cite another typical case -

Another original allotment (16 in section ;), in Collins-street east, was sold by the Government to John Hodgson, on the rst November, 1837, for ^42. Two-thirds of this, or 44 feet frontage, was sold, about a year ago, to the Deposit and Mortgage Bank for ^17,600. This is an increase on the original price of 62,757 per rent., or at the Tate of 1,404 per cent, per annum.

That is the experience of another poor, suffering pioneer.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Will the honorable senator quote a few cases where persons have bought allotments in country towns?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes ; any number of them.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I know "plenty of cases where men who gave £10 for an allotment will be glad to take 10s. for it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am quite aware of that; and if the honorable senator will allow me to place in Hansard a statement of the sufferings of the poor pioneers, I shall deal with that aspect of the question which he has in his mind, namely, that in many cases the land has changed hands.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - How much did the pioneer get for the land for which he paid £19 ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am not in a position to state what he received; but during the period he held the land, it increased in value at the rate of over 4,000 per cent, per annum.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That does not appear.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes, it does-.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - He might have only got £5 for it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If the honorable senator desires me to trace the history of the land through a period of fortyone years, and say in what year the gains took place, I am not in a position to do so.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - No one would expect that. The honorable senator called the man a suffering pioneer, but he gave no evidence as to whether he was or not. The man may have got only £5 for the land.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am merely showing-

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That the land has increased in value.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I want to show more than that. To-day, Senator Fraser almost burst into tears at the thought of the sufferings of the early pioneers who are to be touched by this land tax.

Senator Walker - He was speaking of the squatting pioneers.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - He was speaking of all landlords.

Senator Walker - No; he was speaking of the men who went out to the far west and to the far north.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I understood, when Senator Fraser was speaking, that the opponents of this measure did not mind so much taxation as the injustice of putting a tax on city lands which could not be broken up. I do not mind the interjections, but I should like to know what their object is, so that we might have a chance to deal with it. At present, I am dealing with the statement which Senator Fraser made to-day. According to this book -

On the opposite side of the same street, an original allotment (a of section 12J was sold by the Government to Henry Batman, on 1st June, 1S37, *or £I&- A portion of this- namely, 36 feet frontage - was sold, about two years ago, to Messrs. Briscoe and Co. for £14,466, or over £500 per foot. This is an increase on the original price of I47,238§ per cent., or at the rate of 3,678! per cent, per annum.

Senator St Ledger - At present, our trouble is - What are you going to do with Briscoe? I dare say it is his trouble, too.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do not intend to deal with my honorable friend's trouble until I have dealt with the troubles of the early pioneers.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Why should you punish a man who paid £50,000 yesterday for land because the pioneer gave only £10 for it sixty years ago?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I shall let him go, and deal with his punishment or acquittal later -

The adjoining allotment to this on the east was sold by the Government, on 1st June, 1837, to Gilbert Marshall for £18; and 36 feet frontage of it was sold, four years ago, to Messrs. Glen and Co. for £19,000, being at the rale of £527 15s. per foot. This is an increase 011 the original price of 193,416! per cent., or at the rate of 5,089 per cent, per annum. The adjoining allotment on the east of this again was sold by the Government, on the 1st June, 1837, to Walter Synnot for £19. The same property was re-sold about a year ago, after the removal of all the buildings, to Mr. Andrew Lyell for £39,000, or at the rate of £590 per foot. This is an' increase of no less than 184,110 per cent., or at the rale of 4,490^ per cent, per annum.

I have cited these few typical cases because I desire to show how the increased values came about. Coming down to more modern times, let me deal with the case which has been quoted, of Mr. Hordern, of Georgestreet, Sydney, who said that he was going to be ruined by this legislation, and that all sorts of things would take place. He happens to be one of my suffering pioneers.

Senator St Ledger - Is he not dead?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes, but the estate remains. There are two things which never die - the land and the honorable senator's interjections.

Two corner allotments, one at the corner of Bourke-street and Russell-street and the other at the corner of Little Collins-street and Russellstreet, were sold at Sydney, on the 14th February, 1839, to Anthony Hordern for £160 and £110 respectively, or £270 altogether. Four years ago the same allotments were sold by public auction for £67,000, inclusive of buildings, the outside value of which would not exceed £12,000. This is an increase of 20,270 per cent., or at the rate of 563 per cent, per annum.

I.   hope that when honorable senators on the other side quote the case of this firm they will keep this quotation in their minds.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But the firm who got that money will not be taxpayers under the Bill.

Senator Rae - Yes, they will, and that is the trouble.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - No; because they have parted with the land, and, therefore, are not taxpayers.

Senator Guthrie - They have got others to take their place.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That does not appear.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I want to come nearer home. Some of these men did not altogether part with their land in the early days for a very small amount. Here is an instance which is very well known to most men -

The Theatre Royal in Bourke-street is a leasehold property, the tenants paying ^1,500 a year for the use of the land, which the original owner acquired for the sum of £91 4s.

There is a case in Melbourne where people, who never put a single brick on the land, but let it on a building-lease to a company which erected a theatre, have, year after year, taken £1,500 from it. Surely honorable senators will not claim that it was their enterprise or energy which gave that enormous value to the land? Let me cite another case -

The Victoria Arcade is also leasehold property, the owner of which pays ^1,300 a year for land originally costing ^98 16s. The Eastern Arcade is another leasehold, the ground rent of which is ^1,200 a year, the freehold having cost ^87 8s. But the extent to which the public are disposed to go in making substantial improvements on a leasehold tenure may be better illustrated by what has been done in the case of the Western Market.

There we have the other system by way of contrast -

On the 7th May, 1868, the City Corporation leased the Western Market (a grant from the Crown) to Mr. Henry Miller for a period of 21 years, the conditions being that he should erect substantial buildings, according to approved plans, and pay a ground rent of ^413 per annum. The terms of the lease have been strictly complied with, and the result is a pile of buildings which are an ornament to the city. In ten years from now these buildings will become the property of the Corporation, from which it will derive a handsome revenue.

I could quote hundreds of these cases in Melbourne and Sydney, showing distinctly that, instead of being suffering pioneers or martyrs, the men who acquired the land there in the early days, either as original proprietors or a few years later, have made thousands and thousands of pounds out of it, and in some cases still possess it. When we are asked to show some kindly consideration for these men, I remind honorable senator that they are not responsible for the capital value of these lands, and that it has been created by the energy of the people of this country. I was rather astonished to hear my colleague, Senator Fraser, say that in Victoria there are now no big estates. I leave other honorable senators to speak of the conditions in their own States. Senator Fraser would have us believe that, though at one time there might have been such a thing as land monopoly in Victoria, it is now done away with, and we have no big estates in this part of the Commonwealth. I wish, in answer, to put on record in Hansard a few of what the honorable senator apparently regards as small estates. It should not be forgotten that, as compared with the other States of Australia, with one exception, Victoria possesses a very limited area of land. But even here we find that the following persons have estates of the areas mentioned : -


Senator Guthrie - The Russells are in it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The only connexion I can claim with these Russells is that I believe one elector voted for me at the last election, in the belief that I was one of the members of this family. To resume the list -


These particulars are taken from the land tax register of the State of Victoria. They show that Senator Fraser was absolutely incorrect in saying that there are no big estates to-day in Victoria. In this State, we have twenty-seven people owning 1,500,000 acres of land between them. The extent of the area is not the only important, feature. The men who, in the early days, got possession of these lands, were astute business men ; and, as a result of their operations, in the State of Victoria to-day we graze sheep on the best agricultural land: and carry on agriculture on what is really only third or fourth class land. Honorable senators opposite continually refer to lack of business capacity in members of the Labour party. They claim to be of a rather superior order, and much more competent business men. But when they set out to mention particular instances to show the hardships which will be inflicted by this legislation, one after another refers us to cases in which a merely nominal income is derived from highly valuable property. I do not wish to impugn the accuracy of the figures quoted ; but, assuming them to be correct, the only conclusion that can be drawn from them is that the land-owners, whom honorable senators opposite claim to represent, have been so lacking in business capacity, as in the first place to give more for their land than it was worth, and are utterly incompetent to successfully mariage an estate.

Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator has 'never been far from the Yarra.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have done some hard work in my time ; and I have little doubt that I could make as big a success of settlement on the land as the ordinary lawyer.

Senator St Ledger - The weakness of my honorable friends is that whenever an interjection is made, they try to be beastly personal. That is their only refuge.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We have no weakness on our side. We are all strength, as will be seen when this land tax measure goes through. I see no reason why we should be other than candid in the matter. The people of Australia have sent us here to give them an effective land tax, and we intend to give it to 1hem. They are waiting with open arms for this measure, which will be for the benefit of Australia, and will increase Australian production. There is a history attached to this legislation ; and Senator Clemons to-day made a clever but evasive attempt to trace it. The lands that got into the hands of the early pioneers became enhanced in value as the result of the introduction of population. The State laws, which many of our present- day politicians had a hand in making, proved such a failure that large aggregations of land took place in this and in every one of the States. Lands suitable for settlement became so valuable that in most of the States there was a condition of land hunger, without any land adjacent to railways available to meet the requirements of the people for land settlement. There were Liberal Governments in power in the various States, and what they did was to go into the open market to purchase land, hoping to buy it at a fair price and pass it on to those desiring to settle on it at a slightly increased price. The State, with unlimited funds, was thus added to the competitors in the land market; and this led to a land boom. In Victoria to-day, land in the country districts is at boom prices; and it is practically impossible for any man to get agricultural land at a price at which he can work it profitably.

Senator St Ledger - What will happen when there are 5,000,000 people in Victoria ; will not the value of land increase as the population increases?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Of course it will.

Senator St Ledger - What are honorable senators going to do, then? The exemption line must come down.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If the honorable senator is prepared to sit down and wait until land has so increased in value that a man will need to be a millionaire to secure 50 acres, I can tell him that I am not, nor is the party to which I have the honour to belong.

Senator O'Keefe - Nor is the public.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Nor is the public, and it is master of the situation, after all. Honorable senators can go into eastern Gippsland and they will find that land which is distant from a railway 50, 60 and 120 miles, recently brought is much as £no an acre. In the Western District in this State, land has brought £120 an acre. Recently in Camperdown, where land is used almost entirely for grazing, and the plough is hardly ever put into the soil, land brought an average price of £68 an acre. Will any honorable senator tell me that our young men can hope to succeed in settling upon the land if they have to pay such prices? If we go to the Goulburn Valley we shall find that land is there selling at from £20 to £50 an acre; and it is possible to-day to get only the poorest quality of land in Victoria for agriculture at £20 an acre. In nearly every case the man who requires land for settlement is the small mau who wishes to get a start in the country, and he is quite unable to pay the prices now ruling for land. This has become more than a Slate question; it is now a national question. It is because I believe, in common with other members of the Labour party, that this land tax will he effective in the breaking up of large estates, and in making it possible for men to secure a reasonable area of land on which to make

h.   living and a home, that I give my wholehearted support to this Bill.

Senator St Ledger - What about the pamphlet the honorable senator's Government sent Home? It tells a different tale.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I had an opportunity of reading an article which the honorable senator sent Home a few month* ago, and I should be sorry if the Government I support sent Home any written statement which was not more reliable than that article. We have been invited to consider what a magnificent country Australia is. We have been told that it is larger than the United States, and nearly equal in area to Europe, if we exclude a portion of Russia. Let me point out how it is held, though this information may not be strictly relevant to the Bill. I find that -

Leases and licences granted to graziers, speculators, and others by the Governments of the several States comprise 746^ million acres, including some of the finest land in the Southern Hemisphere. Yat this, in parts, the lessees pay as. 6d. per 100 acres per annum, while even in Victoria, the garden State, lands are held at jd. per acre. The land barons thus hold for a song Crown property equal in extent to the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, and Italy.

Yet- to-day honorable senators are telling our young men that there are plenty of places in Australia where they can get land. Senator St. Ledger talks in this Chamber about the area that has been alienated, but he only tells half the truth. There is a vast area of land which, " though it is not absolutely alienated from the Crown, is tn the hands of monopolists and is leased for a large number of years at a merely nominal rent. It is one of my regrets that this Bill does not effectively deal with those lands.

Senator St Ledger - Nine-tenths of the land the honorable senator is talking about will not be fit for settlement for a century.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am more hopeful of the future of my country. If I were as pessimistic as is the honorable senator with regard to the development of this country within the next 100 years, I should have to give up some of my best ideals. If Senator St. Ledger believes that this land will continue to be monopolized as it is at present for the next 100 years, while the population of Australia is increasing, I wonder what he intends that our young men shall do for a living.

Senator St Ledger - I hope they will get there before that time, but I do not think it likely, even if there were forty Labour Governments instead of one in power for the whole of the time.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator is unable to recognise the fact that there has been a silent revolution. If the Fusion party were to continue in office, I should be disposed to indorse his statement and to say that our young men would never get upon the land for the next two centuries, let alone one. But to-day we have a progressive Labour and National Government in power which is determined to deal with this land problem, and in less than 25 years it will be found that we shall have done something practical with the land.

Senator St Ledger - According to the honorable senator himself, a great deal of the land to which he refers is not touched by this Bill.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have already said so. Honorable senators have quoted cases in different parts of Australia to show that individuals would be injured by this legislation, and I am free to admit that in some instances individuals will feel the pinch of this tax. But we ought at all times to consider that it is more just to injure an individual in the interests of the whole community, than it is to injure the community in the interests of an individual. I realize that most of the provisions of the Bill may best be discussed in Committee ; and, therefore, I do not propose to debate them at this stage. I merely desire to add that the evil of land monopoly is rampant throughout Australia to-day. That evil must be removed. I therefore say, in the most public manner, to our big land-owners, " You must either make the best possible use of your land, or we will compel you, by means of land taxation, to get off it, and to make room for somebody else who will utilize it to the best advantage." What is the position in the State of Victoria to-day ? Some of these land monopolists let their lands which produce about £8 per acre annually. The tenants, who have to incur all the risks incidental to the keeping of stock, to say nothing of other risks, as well as to provide all the labour, pay as much as £2 2s. 6d. per acre for land. I defy anybody to point me to a dairying district in which a man can secure land at a rental less than 25 per cent. of its annual product, exclusive of the cost of labour and stock. In our grain-growing districts, the landlords are getting two-thirds of the produce of their lands, as against the onethird which is received by the individual who is farming it for them. It is quite a common thing for a man who wishes to rent a good piece of land upon which to grow onions or potatoes, to be obliged to pay £6 per acre per annum for it.It is not only unjust that the tenants should be called upon to pay such high rents, but it is unfair to the community, in that it increases the price of these products to the consumer. If we analyze the increases which have taken place during recent years in the price of articles which are the direct produce of the soil, we shall find that those increases are the result of land monopoly. I shall give the Bill my whole-hearted support. I believe that it will be instrumental in adding to our national wealth, by insuring an increased measure of production, and by making it easier for the young men of Australia to settle upon its lands under fair and reasonable conditions.

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