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Tuesday, 25 October 1910


Senator McCOLL (Victoria) . - I do not know that in my long parliamentary career I have ever addressed myself to a subject with a greater feeling of misgiving and apprehension than I am about to do. It seems to me that we are entering a lane the end of which we cannot see. I utterly fail to see where the want of principle which is involved in this measure is going to lead us. It is quite understandable that the Government desire to pass the Bill through as quickly as possible, but the occasion is altogether too important and too serious to allow it to be rushed through. I think it is the duty of those who do not agree with it to show the real inwardness of it as far as they are able to do, because I am convinced that at the last general election, and even at the present time, the great majority of the people of this country do not understand what is involved. I do not wish it to be thought for a moment that I do not consider that land is a fair subject for taxation. Nor do I wish to object in any way to the progressive principle. We have that at present in our State, in regard to income tax and death duties. Therefore it is not out of place to apply the principle to land taxation, but the income tax and the death duties are purely revenue taxes, and there is a perfectly plain and straightforward course in their administration in the interests of both the country and thetaxpayers. Very contradictory reasons are given for the introduction of. this measure. One honorable senator tells us that it is introduced for the purpose of obtaining revenue.


Senator McGregor - Who said that?


Senator McCOLL - Senator Gardiner said the other day that this was purelya revenue tax. We are told that we require revenue for the expenses of the Federal Capital, for the desert railways that are to be constructed, and for defence. Another says that the tax is intended to burst up big estates; another that it is intended to encourage immigration. Many reasons are given for the introduction of the Bill, none of them agreeing with each other, each, indeed, being to some extent destructive of the others. It is somewhat gratifying to witness this new-born zeal of the Labour party for immigration. For many years past they have set their face against such a policy.


Senator McGregor - The honorable senator has misrepresented us often enough on that question.


Senator McCOLL - I have done nothing of the kind.


Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is trying to do so now.


Senator McCOLL - If I had chosen to take up the time of the Senate by reading extracts from speeches delivered by members of the Labour party, and from articles published in newspapers which represent them in this country, I could have proved my contention up to the hilt, and if I am challenged on the point I may do so later on, when the Bill gets into Committee. But, although many reasons have been given for the introduction of this measure, there is one real reason for it. It is in reality a measure to cheapen land, to destroy land values, to cause a slump in the price of land. The. burden of the speeches of my honorable friends, Senator E. J. Russell and Senator Givens, was almost entirely to that effect. They said, practically in so many words. "We want to bring down the value of land."


Senator Givens - Three-fourths of my speech was devoted to the revenue aspect of the Bill.


Senator McCOLL - The title should be, not " A Bill to impose a tax on unimproved land values," but " A Bill to cheapen land, and strike a blow at landed property." I suppose that this Bill transcends in importance any measure that has ever been introduced into the Federal Parliament. We were, therefore, entitled to expect from the Leader of the Government a fairly full explanatory speech concerning it. It is a complicated Bill, and one certainly that required a very clear explanation. Bait we were not furnished with anything of the kind. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that he had not time, and that he did not think that it was necessary, because explanations could be given in Committee. He simply ran off the heads of the various portions of the measure, and offered us no explanations with regard to them. The whole speech' breathed the idea, *' We have the numbers, and we are going to pass the Bill ; an explanation is entirely unnecessary at the present time." It seems to me that the attitude of honorable senators opposite, instead of being the attitude of statesmanship, which should have been manifested in dealing with a great question like this, affecting such enormous interests in this country, has been rather one of satisfaction and of gloating over the victims whom they were about to sacrifice. It is, to my mind, another phase of the vendetta against wealth, in favour of which the Labour party has started a crusade. Thi time the attack is levied against persons who have property in land. The Bill is not so much political as it is predatory and punitive. It breathes a spirit of spoliation and revenge, and it largely makes its appeals to cupidity. It is destitute of elementary justice. Whether the Bill is constitutional or not I am not prepared to say, nor am 1 a fair judge. Reading the Constitution, however, as the ordinary man in the street would read it, and having regard to the plain and simple language which it contains, it seems to me that the Bill is not constitutional even from the legal aspect. While it may be technically legal, it certainly perverts and cuts across the spirit and letter of that magnificent document. Of course, the views held by the members of the Convention have very little weight now. Their speeches and the spirit that they breathed into the Constitution, which was afterwards ratified by the people of Australia, seem to be entirely lost sight of. But if we would understand what was meant by the Constitution in the minds of those who framed it, we have to read the debates of the Convention; and if we do so we cannot find that it contemplated that any such measure as this would be passed by the Federal Parliament. Indeed, I venture to say that if any such measure had been foreshadowed at the time when the Constitution was submitted to the people there would have been very little chance of its being carried. It seems to me that the measure will be unjust in its incidence. It tends to bleed the rich, and yet will largely injure the poor. It will have an influence for evil far beyond the area in which it will immediately operate. These, I know, are strong statements to make, and before I have done I shall endeavour to justify them. If this had been a fair tax for revenue purposes to meet the needs of the Commonwealth' I should not have objected to it. But it' is a class tax, directed only against one body. The Minister said that the needs of the Commonwealth require direct taxation. But if the Government are going to tax wealth to meet the needs of the Commonwealth, why do they not tax wealth all round, and not simply tax one class?


Senator McGregor - One thing at a time.


Senator McCOLL - The Minister's remark gives me to understand that this is only the thin edge of the wedge. " One thing at a time." This is but one thing. We are now faced with a land tax. The next thing, I suppose, will be an income tax, or a property tax. I certainly do think that this Bill is a breach of faith. It was distinctly understood when the Constitution was adopted that direct taxation was to be left to the province of the States, except in cases of great emergency. I deny that an emergency has arisen just now, or anything approaching one. We have no need of this taxation for revenue purposes. The Government have ample funds to meet our expenditure for years to come. Therefore, this is a breach of the Federal understanding. The Minister told us that the Government anticipated that they would derive ,£1,000,000 per annum from the tax. He seemed to regret that they would not obtain £2,500,000, and said that it would be a good thing if such were the case, an opinion that was echoed by a number of his supporters in this Chamber. I have always understood that careful statesmanship takes no more from the people for the purposes of government than is absolutely necessary. A surplus of revenue is bad for the. Government as well as for the people, and it should be the endeavour of every Treasurer to make his income and expenditure meet as nearly as possible. When we learn that the Labour party hope that this tax will bring in two and a-half times more revenue than the Government who have introduced it anticipate, we may wonder what the Government will be likely to do with the money. It cannot be expected that the people will regard the imposition of taxation to such an enormous extent with any degree of equanimity. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in explaining how the Government arrived at their estimate of the revenue to be derived from the land tax, referred to the valuations of properties in the different States. He complained that they were very unsatisfactory, and he took the valuations in Victoria as the basis of the estimate that this tax will bring in a revenue of £1,000,000. It is strange that the Government should have based their estimate upon the figures supplied by the only State in which there is no unimproved land tax. If they had desired to know what an unimproved land tax might bring in, they might have gone to Western Australia, South Australia, or New South Wales, where a similar system is in operation under the State Governments, and something like accurate conclusions might hove been drawn from the figures obtainable in those States. I do not agree with the statement that in the different States, and especially in Victoria, properties are undervalued for the purpose of local taxation. Some properties may not be assessed at their full value, but the local bodies are not interfered with in this matter, and they raise sufficient to pay their expenses.


Senator McGregor - They do not in many cases.


Senator McCOLL - They do, and they do their work well. Some local authorities make a low valuation and impose a high rate, whilst others make a high valuation and impose a low rate. In this measure the Government are endeavouring in a roundabout way to do something which they could not do in a straightforward way. They are endeavouring to make use of the taxing power of the Commonwealth to achieve ends which they could not under the Constitution achieve by direct legislation. Personally 1 do not consider that that is a right course to adopt. Direct taxation should be imposed for revenue purposes only, "but the Government are endeavouring to make use of this taxing power for quite other purposes. The statement that there is no land available for immigrants in this country has been very frequently repeated, and in this connexion, at the risk of being somewhat tedious, because it has been referred to before, I intend again to refer to the pamphlet Australia for Farmers, recently issued by the Government. It sets out at great length the area and productivity of the lands available for settlement in Australia. We are told in the preface to the publication that-

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.

The preface is signed by the Honorable E. L. Batchelor, Minister for External Affairs. I desire to give that honorable gentleman every credit for what he has done in the issue of this pamphlet. He has got out of the rut in which many of the members of his party are always struggling, and has fairly stated the advantages of settlement in Australia. I quote the following -

The interior of Australia from the foothills of the mountain ranges to the very heart of the continent, produces naturally grasses, herbage, and edible scrubs and trees, which enable a merino wool industry with an annual output of ^30,000,000 to be carried on, the sheep on such country being dependent almost entirely on the natural growths for sustenance.

The rainfall becomes less dependable as the centre of the continent is reached, but by the utilization of artesian water underlying areas as great as France and Spain, by conservation of some of the vast quantities of water that annually go to waste in all the oceans around Australia, and by the adoption of more scientific and provident methods of management of live-stock and cultivation areas, the effects of shortages in rainfall are being successfully combated throughout an annually expanding area of the interior.

We have heard a good deal of the folly ot bringing out people to starve in our inland districts, and in this connexion I may say that with respect to rainfall the following statement is made in the pamphlet -

In the accompanying map, furnished by the Commonwealth Meteorologist, it will be observed that the rainfall of Australia is not evenly distributed, and that the moderate rainfall essential for successful farming occurs in an irregular strip, extending in some cases several hundred miles inland, and following the eastern, southern (including Tasmania), and about half of the western sea-board. It is difficult to compute the exact extent of the area thus embraced, but the 10,000,000 acres at present under cultivation represent probably less than one-tenth of it, even when allowance is made for rough mountainous country and other tracts which, for various reasons, are unfitted for agriculture.

The annual production of ^40,000,000 worth of crops of all kinds on the 10,000,000 acres of the farming belt under cultivation, exclusive of over ^14,000,000 worth of dairy products and a vast amount of wool and meat, affords proof of the suitability of climate and soil for farming purposes.

Later on we are advised as to the treatment of immigrants when they arrive in this country -

On arrival at his destination the new comer is put in touch wilh the local Crown land agent or the agent for private lands.

The Bureau keeps a record of the large landowners who are ready to let their land to dairy and sheep farmers on the shares system, with the option of purchase later on.

This system has been roundly condemned by our honorable friends on the other side, but in this Government publication it is referred to in this way -

This system meets the needs of new arrivals, especially in cases where they have a large family, and who, though practical farmers, have not sufficient capital to immediately launch out upon their own account.

With regard to New South Wales land and land laws, we are told -

The land laws of New South Wales are very liberal, and they provide for the sale and lease of lands under various conditions.

With respect to homestead selections it is stated -

The annual rent for the first six years will be an amount equal to ii per cent, of the capital value of the land (i.e., 3d. in. the pound), after which the rent will be increased to 2% per cent, of the capital value. Areas up to 1,280 acres may be held under this tenure, and the Act provides for the appraisement of the capital value and readjustment of the annual rent every ten years. Should an area granted under this . tenure be found insufficient for the maintenance of a home, it may, under certain circumstances, be increased. This provision also applies to settlement leases and conditional purchases.

Dealing with settlement leases the statement is made -

Areas up to 1,280 acres for agricultural purposes and 10,240 acres for grazing may be obtained as settlement leases. Such leases have a term of forty years, and provision is made for the reappraisement of the rent every ten years, since the introduction of the 1903 Act. A settlement lease cannot be granted to a minor. The area leased must be fenced within five years, and the lessee must reside continuously on his holding during the whole term of the lease. After five years' residence the lessee may apply for a homestead grant of that part of the holding on which his dwelling is situated, but the area so applied for must not exceed 1,280 acres.

In spite of these statements in a Government publication we are told by our friends opposite that there is no land available for settlement in Australia. There is an explanation given in the pamphlet also of the terms on which conditional purchase leases are given. It is explained that for a small initial outlay by way of deposit, and for a moderate rent under easy conditions, a settler may obtain a freehold of land in from thirty to thirty-eight years. Then a statement is made with respect to the conditions of land settlement in Victoria, irrigated lands are described, and the methods of acquiring them at a low rate extending over thirty-one and a-half years. A reference is also made to farm . workers' blocks, which up to value of £200 can be obtained by settlers who would spend most of their time in working for others, and their spare time in improving their own land. Speaking of the mallee lands, the publication says -

Portions of about 2,000,000 acres of this land will be made available from time to time in the near future, in areas ranging from 600 acres to 800 acres. The purchase money varies from 10s. to £1 2s. 6d. per acre, payable by halfyearly instalments over a period of forty years at from 3d. to 63/4d. per acre per annum.

We have been told that there is no means of checking the aggregation of large estates except by means of the imposition of a progressive land tax. That that is not so is evidenced by the fact that in the mallee districts, the areas which can be taken up are limited. The accounts given of Queensland are very glowing. For instance, the booklet says -

The general terms and conditions of Crown land selection in Queensland are : -

Agricultural farms, under which mode land suitable for dairying and general f arming may be acquired in areas up to 1,280 acres. The purchase price ranges from 10s. per acre upwards. The term is twenty years, and the annual rent one-fortieth of the purchasing price. No interest is charged, and all payments of rent are credited as a part of the price. Within five years the selector must fence the land or effect improvements equal to the value of a fence. After five years the freehold may be obtained by the payment of the balance of the purchase money, but until the deed of grant is obtained the land must be continuously occupied by the selector residing personally upon it or by his manager or agent doing so. Those who undertake to personally reside for the first five years have priority.

Under the heading of " Perpetual Lease Selections," appears the following -

Land open as agricultural farms may also be opened for perpetual lease selection, and the latter mode may be conceded priority of application over the former. The rent for the first period of ten years is 11/2 per cent, of the price of the land for agricultural farm selection, and the conditions of residence are the same as on an agricultural farm.

A long account is also given of " Agricultural Homesteads " -

Under this mode of selection the area varies with the value of the land, namely, 160 acres in the case of land values for agricultural farms at not less than £1 per acre; 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.

All these terms are extremely liberal, and I quote them as a set-off against the statement which has been repeatedly made during this debate that no land is available for selection in Australia. Under the heading of " Free Homesteads," the publication says -

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 upon it, and must effect improvements to the total value of 10s. per acre.

Then we are told that -

Farmers in Great Britain and elsewhere may arrange to secure areas suitable for general arming, wheat-growing, dairying, or other pro ductive purposes prior to departure for 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 any such area.

A description is then given of the lands available for settlement in South Australia ; and we are told that in that State 360,000 acres are now open for selection in various localities. The fair and equitable way in which land can be obtained in Western Australia is described as follows -

The conditions under which Crown lands in Western Australia may be acquired for settlement are : -

Free homestead farm of from10 to 160 acres for £1, application fee, and half survey fees, amounting to a maximum of £81s., making the total cost of a 160-acre block £91s. The conditions of the free grant entail improvements in the shape of clearing, fencing, and cultivation, to the value of 14s. per acre within seven years.Boundaries to be fenced, hall within five years, and the whole within seven years. Half value of fencing may be allowed towards the improvements.

Then conditional purchase lands are obtainable as follows -

From 100 to 1,000 acres, at from 10s. per acre, payable in forty half-yearly instalments.

The publication also contains a statement of the localities in which landis procurable, and of the area available in the various States. In New South Wales, we are told-

Large areas of Crown lands are available for selection in places, and farms may still be obtained under easy conditions, though most of the land of the best quality and nearest to the railway has been selected. Pioneering work would have to be done on these Crown lands now available before a farm could be evolved ; but these disabilities were just as apparent to a great many of our present-day farmers when years ago they drove their pigs in the primeval forest through which men had scarcely trod, much less built roads or laid rails.

In regard to Victoria, we are assured that-

The mallee, so-called because of the thick scrub of this name, dwarf eucalypt, with which the most of it was originally covered, contains about 11,000,000 acres, in the north-west of the State. It adjoins the Wimmera; but the soil is light in character, and the rainfall is much less - about11 to 14 inches per annum. There are still large areas of the mallee held by the Crown, and being opened for settlement. About 3,000,000 acres, known as the mallee fringe, adjoining the Wimmera district, have been settled during the last twenty years, and it is one of the great wheat-producing districts of Victoria.

We further learn that -

The irrigated land now offered to settlers has been subdivided into blocks to suit the needs of men of both ample and small means. There are z-acre blocks for homes for farm employes; 10-acre blocks for market gardeners ; and from 20 to 200-acre blocks for farmers.

In describing Queensland, the publication says -

Throughout the vast tracts of virgin land comprising the farming belts of Queensland, there are millions of acres awaiting settlement. Areas of excellent land are available in the Darling Downs, Lockyer, Stanley, Rosewood, Fassifern, Logan, Albert, Wide Bay, Burnett, and other districts of the south. In these localities dairy farming flourishes, but the soil and climate are suitable for a wide range of mixed farming.

Along the eastern sea-board, as far north as Bowen, dairy farming is extending by leaps and bounds, and large areas are available for occupation on easy terms. In the Blackall Range, to the north of Brisbane, dairy farming, mixed farming, and fruitgrowing are flourishing, but the areas at present occupied represent only a small proportion of the lands fitted for highly profitable use.

Considerable portions of the Northern Tablelands and parts of Central Queensland have been proved to be suitable for dairying as well as for mixed farming, wheat, wool, and meat production.

In the north, the Atherton Scrub, which comprises marvellously rich lands, has been opened up for settlement, and dairy farming is rapidly spreading therein.

The price of land varies, as indicated on pages 101-102, from 2s. 6d'. per acre upwards, repayable in easy instalments.

In speaking of South Australia, the booklet says -

Lands comprising about 360,000 acres are open to application in various localities. Lands containing over 4,000 acres are open to application in Waikerie Irrigation Area, about thirty miles east of Morgan, River Murray. Extensive areas of Crown lands are now under survey in the Hundred of James (about 62,000 acres), Franklin Harbor district; Darkes' Peak country (about 80,000 acres), north-west of Arno Bay ; Hundred of Mantung (about I05,000 acres), adjacent to the proposed Tailem Bend and Brown's Well railway ; Hundred of Hooper (about 90,000 acres), through which the said railway will pass; Hundred of Pendleton (about 18,000 acres), near Bordertown ;. Berri Berri (irrigation lands about 4,000 acres), on River Murray, south-west of Renmark.

We are also told that the Struan estate, containing about 22,000 acres was recently purchased for closer settlement. We are further informed that -

There are 19,345 square miles of pastoral land open for selection.

In other words, there are 12,380,800 acres open for selection in South Australia. Yet, we are told that there is no land available for settlement. The booklet states that in Western Australia -

There are millions of acres of unalienated lands in the State available for settlement. Most of this land can be obtained under conditional purchase settlement, but in the localities in which the greatest amount of settlement is taking place the land has been reserved, and is being surveyed into suitable blocks before being thrown open.

Victoria locations (Yuba), 12 to :S miles north of Northampton, 340 miles north of Perth; 20,000 acres in lots from 662 to 1,800 acres. Price, from 5s. 6d. to 20s. per acre. Rainfall, 15 to 17 inches. Suitable for mixed farming. Timber, York gum, jam, and tarnma.

Victoria locations (Nugadong, Dalwallinu, and Wilgie Hill). Situated 40 miles east of Watheroo, Midland Railway, and 132 miles from Perth. Over 100,000 acres in blocks from 600 to 1,000 acres. Timber, salmon gum, gimlet, and mallee. Suitable for wheat, sheep and horse breeding. Rainfall, 15 inches.

Avon locations, Eastern District (Titadjin). About 35,000 acres, in blocks from 752 to 1,000 acres. Prices from gs. 6d. to 16s. 6d. per acre, with Agricultural Bank advance of £500 on nearly all blocks. Timber, salmon gum, gimlet, and mallee. Rainfall, 10 to 12 inches.

Other Avon locations, Eastern District, practically the same as Titadjin, open or available shortly : KodjKodjin, 68,000 acres; Baannee, 43,000 acres; Mununoppin, 43,000 acres; Lake Brown, Barbalin, Mangownie, Knungajen, and Goomarin. Suitable for wheat and sheep.

Nelson locations (Balbarrup). Situated 200 miles south of Perth. Bridgetown agency situated on proposed Bridgetown-Wilgarup railway. In 200-acre lots. Prices, from 12s. to 50s. per acre. Timber, jarrah, red gum, blackbutt, and swamp banksia. Suitable for orchards and dairying. Rainfall, 35 inches. Agricultural Bank advances ^200 on these blocks.

Denmark, re-purchased estate. Three hundred and fifty-eight miles from Perth and 26 miles, from Albany. Seventeen thousand two hundred acres, in lots of 100 to 150 acres. Price, from gs. 6d. to 280s. per acre, according to improvements effected. Rainfall, 40 inches. Suitable for intense culture, dairying, &c.

Other surveyed areas, with blocks available. Gordon River, east of Cranbrook, ±6,500 acres. Great Southern Railway.

Dinninup, g3,50o acres, and Kojonup Brook, 71,250 acres. Situated on the proposed Kojonup to Boyup railway. Rainfall, 22 to 25 inches. Suitable for mixed farming and intense culture. Timber, blue and flooded gum, jarrah, banksia, blackboys, &c.

Estates have been purchased from time to time and sold successfully. The last purchased being Narra Tarra Station, n miles east of Geraldton, which consists of 23,000 acres, now being subdivided, and will be available early next year. Timber, jam, wattle, &c.

A homestead freehold farm of 160 acres is granted for the nominal sum of £9 rs., which is really the bare cost of survey and deeds, to applicants who do not hold more than 100 acres conditional purchase land in the State; but this does not apply to re-purchased estates, on which no homestead farms are granted.

In all, sir, there are, in Western Australia, 540,450 acres now available for settlement. Yet we are assured that no land is available for settlers who come to Australia. It is said that this book is not reliable, but the Government have to look to that. There is another book which has been sent in large numbers to the United States of America, and in which we read with regard to wheat -

Within the recognised farming belt, and on the outskirts, there are many millions of acres of fertile soil, which, under advanced methods of dry farming, are capable of producing profitable crops of wheat throughout the vast territories in each State of the Commonwealth, in which during the past twenty years agricultural settlement and railroads have rapidly spread, and in which there are now many millions of acres open for farm settlement; climatic conditions are ideal for eight or nine months of the year - autumn, winter, and spring - with no bitter cold, no heavy snowfall, and no devastating frosts.


Senator Millen - Who issued the book?


Senator McCOLL - It was issued by the Fisher Government.

The area at present under wheat represents probably one-twentieth of the lands of Australia which are naturally fitted to produce profitable crops of wheat under the present methods practised in Australia, and possibly one-fortieth of the area upon which wheat could be grown in alternate seasons under scientific methods of dry farming.

The lands comprising the 15 to 30 inch rainfall belt, and on which wheat is now successfully grown, may be roughly classified as : -

Upland country, at an altitude of 800 to 2,500 feet above sea-level, which in its virgin state carries fairly large trees and consists of fairly heavy loam.

Intermediate country, at lower elevations, carrying smaller trees and friable loam.

Plain country, in great expanses, with fairly light natural timber and light soil.

Scrub country, carrying in its virgin state dense growths of Mallee or other scrubs of small girth with greatly-enlarged underground stem.

In most districts of each State there are numerous other classes of land on river banks, &c, but it may be said that the outstanding feature of most Australian wheat land is the low cost at which it can be worked.

The wheat soils of Australia are, with few exceptions, naturally well drained and sufficiently rich in plant food to produce profitable crops for many years without the addition of fertilizers.

In their natural state they carry, as a rule, a luxuriant growth of sweet and nutritious grasses, which are unequalled in any country for wool-producing and fattening purposes.

The only preparatory treatment required on pastoral lands is to thin out the limber by ringbarking.

Much of the land that is now being put under wheat was formerly occupied by graziers.

Beyond what is regarded as the safe farming belt under ordinary methods of cultivation, the natural grasses are abundant, and serve to indicate the suitability of the soil for wheat production under scientific methods of treatment.

The fact that the pastoral lands of Australia are carrying on natural pasturage at present 92,000,000 sheep and 11,000,000 head of cattle, producing wool and meat to the value of $240,000,000 per annum, is the main reason why the possibilities of the drier districts for wheatgrowing have remained so long unexploited.

In view of very many statements which have been made to the detriment of Australia, I thought it was absolutely necessary to place these quotations in Hansard, coming as they do from the highest recognised authority of all. The Minister in charge of the Bill told us about the conditions in Scotland and Ireland. Probably I know the conditions in those countries as well as he does, as I was there but recently. I join with the honorable senator in the regret that our kith and kin are not there now, as they used to be. The only remains of my forefathers I could find were on moss-grown tombstones. The conditions in Australia are quite different from the conditions in the Old Country. It is not likely that we shall ever reproduce the latter conditions under the democratic system which we enjoy. We are also told that year by year land is going out of cultivation, hence we need a land tax. Now, land is going out of cultivation for various reasons. For instance, many persons have turned their attention to dairying, which has been more profitable and safer than wheat growing, as there is an income coming in every week, instead of yearly. Persons turn their attention to dairying, especially those who have families. Another reason why land is going out of cultivation is the impossibility of getting the necessary labour. If we were to throw open tomorrow land which could be cultivated, it would lie idle for a very long time, unless some very strong steps were taken to bring in immigrants of the right character. I hold no brief for land-owners. I am not one of their class, and I have never had the support of large land-owners. But I desire to see legislation which is just and honest. I do not want a man because he has a lot of land to be treated in an unworthy manner. We ought to have honest dealing with both rich and poor. It may be thought from comments which have been made that these land-owners pay no taxation, but what are the facts ? We find that they are subject to very large rates of taxation indeed. I could elaborate the land, income, and local government taxes at great length, but do not wish to do so. I shall content myself with summarizing what the people whom we are taxing under this measure have to pay. In New South Wales, an unimproved land tax brings in an annual revenue of £80,794; the general rate under the Local Government Act - I exclude special, water, and other rates - £267,136; and an income tax, £202,369.


Senator Lynch - Local taxation is for services rendered.


Senator McCOLL - That is all right, but the people have to pay the taxation all the same.


Senator Lynch - Yes ; but they are getting value for the money.


Senator McCOLL - Is not this taxation to be paid for services rendered?


Senator Lynch - Not in the sense in which local taxation is.


Senator McCOLL - In New South Wales, the direct taxation totals £550,299. In Victoria a land tax produces £85,559 a year, which I admit is a most inadequate amount. It is a land tax which ought to have been brushed aside long ago in favour of a fairer one. The local government rates run from 6d. to 2s. 6d. in the £1, but, taking the average rate at is. 6d., property owners pay £984,296 a year, while the income tax yields £304,464, making a total direct taxation of £1,374,319- In South Australia, the land tax brings in £92,158, the local government tax £303,227, and the income tax £160,177, making a total direct taxation of £555,562. In Western Australia, the land tax brings in £33,120, and the local government tax £382,583, so that the direct taxation totals £415,703. In Tasmania, the land tax produces £59,651, which it is proposed to increase by £80,000 or £90,000, and the local government tax ,£164,465. I may explain that that tax is levied, not on the unimproved value, but on the full value of a property. The income tax yields £94>OI5> making a total direct taxation of £318,131, which is, I think, a very large amount for little Tasmania. In Queensland, the taxation under local Government amounts to £558,838, and the income tax yields £273,091, making a total direct taxation of £831,929. There we see that the property owners in the States, who are being held up as practically contributing nothing towards the cost of government, are paying a total sum of £4, 045, 943. Senator McGregor told us that this is one of the most complete legislative measures which had ever been drafted. It seems to me that it is very complete in some respects. It will probably bring about a systematic confiscation of freeholds in land. When reasons are given for levying this tax, we are told that the Government have a mandate from the people. We are also told about the unearned increment. The country never gave a mandate for a Bill like this. Certainly the people anticipated a land tax, because they thought that land was going to be made available. If such a measure had been put before the country, and explained properly, with all these obnoxious clauses, I think that we should have had a different state of affairs to-day. While there are many acts of injustice, some are even more glaring than others. At the last election the cry of land taxation was popular foi certain reasons. It was popular because it was thought that the imposition of a land tax would operate so as to burst up big estates, allow poor men to get land, and thus bring about closer settlement. People with small estates were told. " Vote for us ; you will not be touched. D > not trouble about your property ; it is only the big men who will suffer." The landless were told, " If you vote for us, we will make land cheaper." And so votes were obtained. But the Bill does not deal only with country lands; it goes very much further. It deals with city properties and in a wholly unwarrantable manner. Were the people at the general election told that there was to be a tax on city properties with the object of bursting them up ? No. Not that I say that city properties should be exempt. They should pay their fair share of the taxation of the country. But they should pay it on just lines and on an average rate. The Government should not put a cumulative tax on town properties. By so doing they show no sense of justice whatever.


Senator Blakey - Under the Constitu-, tion we cannot differentiate. [


Senator McCOLL - Is there any rea- i son for trying to differentiate? The Government are sailing as close to the wind, J as far as the Constitution is concerned, as they could. There was no hurry for this ,' measure. They could have asked for power I to differentiate. This tax, as applied to city properties, will penalize the very best class of men, and those who have spent their money most freely in finding employment. ' It will penalize the men who have done the most to improve their neighbourhoods, and will scarcely touch those who have left their allotments idle.


Senator Lynch - It will tax those who have made employment hard to get.


Senator McCOLL - What nonsense ! That kind of statement is simply absurd. Such talk puis me in mind of the American senator who, on going to address a meeting, took his boy with him. When the boy got home his mother said, " How did father speak?" The boy replied, " O. splendidly. He made such a touching speech that some of the audience burst into tears." The mother asked "Were you in tears, my boy?" " Oh, no mother," said the lad, " I know father ! " When I listen to this rhodomantade from honorable senators opposite I simply say, " I know them, and do not believe them." The country also will know them before very long. I say again that this Bill penalizes the men who have done most to improve their properties, whilst the men who have left their blocks lying idle will hardly be touched.


Senator McGregor - Would the honorable senator charge them less?


Senator McCOLL - I would charge them more. How do the Government suppose that city properties are going to he divided ? Do they propose to pull down places like Cole's Hook Arcade, Foy and Gibson's store, George and George's, and the Grand Hotel ? Do they propose to pull down the factories that, under our domestic legislation, are employing so many hands? Yet the owners of those properties suffer under this tax, inasmuch as they are (he owners of city lands; whilst the man who is keeping his property idle, who is holding his neighbourhood back, is to be let off lightly in comparison. We are told that the Government cannot discriminate. On the contrary, there are more glaring discriminations in this measure, having regard to the Constitution, than would be shown if we could discriminate in respect of city properties. My honorable friend, Senator E. J. Russell, quoted from an article published some years ago by the late Mr. David Syme, but he did not tell the Senate that that article dealt with city properties, and not with country lands. It dealt with the rise and growth of Melbourne, and showed the necessity for taxing the unearned increment occasioned by that growth. This Bill, however, does not meet a case of that sort in any shape or form. I find that another article, dealing with the land question, which has recently been published, states -

We may say at once that such a tax was neither contemplated nor authorized by the? electors, lt has not even the justification of expediency. Purely class or " wealth " taxes are never imposed by thoughtful statesmen except in the event of some national emergency. They are always held in reserve for meeting serious and unexpected crises ; a war, for example ; and the objection to enforcing them in times of peace and prosperity is that they leave the Legislature largely exhausted of what should be treasured as an ultimate resource. The Fisher Government has not attempted to deny that its landtax system^ in its application to city lands, is harsh and unjust. It pleads as excuse, therefore, the limits of the Constitution. Mr. Fisher and his colleagues would like to treat city landowners more fairly, but they cannot. The Constitution forbids them to discriminate, and so, for better or for worse, city land-owners must be penalized in the " bursting up " rates, although it is utterly impossible either to subdivide their properties or to put them to a use more profitable to the State than their present use. Mr. Fisher says in effect to the city land-owner, " We are really very sorry for you, old chap, because your case is undoubtedly a hard one. But we can't help it. We must get the country effectively occupied, and since we cannot do that, under the Constitution, without hurting you, well, we must hurt you. Take your consolation in the historic fact that injustice to individuals is an inevitable incident of all new laws and systems of taxation."


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What has that passage to do with what I quoted?


Senator McCOLL - The honorable senator quoted from an article by the late Mr. Syme, and what I have just quoted is from an article published by the Age newspaper about a fortnight ago. The facts quoted by the honorable senator are quite correct. I do not dispute that. But they did not apply to this Bill. My honorable friend's speech was from beginning to end one long cry of " destroy land values " ; that is, destroy the values that men after a lifetime have got together, and upon which they are depending for their own living and for the livelihood of their children. Honorable senators who support the Government think that they are only going to hit the big man. Let me tell them that you cannot hit any class in this country but all the others will suffer. The big man whom you want to hit will not feel the blow so much as the small man whom you are hitting through the big one. The small man will suffer most in the long run, and the small man will turn on this Government in the long run.


Senator McGregor - That is a very small argument.


Senator McCOLL - I know that no argument will penetrate the understanding of my honorable friend. Not that he cannot understand, because his intellect is just as acute as that of any man present - if not more so. But he does not want to understand or to listen to argument. He simply wants to pass this measure. When you pull down the big man the small man will be bound to follow. There will be a general slump in land values. And that is what is wanted by the Labour party. I come to another point in regard to this measure, in respect of which it appears to me that cruel injustices will be done. I refer to clauses 30 and 31, which affect mortgages. Those clauses will ruin thousands of people. Few men will mortgage their property willingly. They mortgage when necessity drives them to do so. In a few cases men will mortgage to provide money to buy properties to settle their children whom they desire to keep near them. Men, as a rule, have to mortgage as a consequence of misfortunes and necessity. They mortgage because they are in straits, or because they have had a bad season, or because of loss of crops or of stock, or because from any other reason they are short of cash. In many such cases this tax will be the crowning stroke. lt will lower the value of their land, and ruin them. If there are two estates alongside each other, one small and the other large, the value of the smaller estate will be lowered just like that of the large one. The mortgagor will find that his equity of redemption has vanished. His margin of security, which represents his life's savings, will be absolutely swept away by one stroke from this measure. It will put upon him an extra burden which he cannot meet, and as a consequence he will throw up the sponge. His lender will not renew, because he will say, " Your land is depreciated 20 or 30 per cent, by reason of the Federal land tax, and I cannot therefore renew your loan on the same lines. You will have to take so much less ; otherwise 1 cannot renew at all." If the man cannot pay the balance between what he has borrowed and the amount which the mortgagee is prepared to lend on renewal, foreclosure will follow. The mortgagor will, perhaps, have to leave the home which he has built up during a lifetime, and he will curse the men who have brought in legislation of this description. How much land is mortgaged in Australia? I was unable to obtain accurate figures from the Govern ment, but I find that in 1908 alone 40,651 mortgages were negotiated in Australia. These mortgages amounted in all to £32> 774,943- What will happen to the mortgagors when they are faced with this tax? Many of them will inevitably be ruined. In Victoria, I suppose that half the estates of over £5,000 in unimproved value are mortgaged up to 60 per cent., and in New South Wales, as far as I can ascertain, about three-fourths of the estates over that value are mortgaged. I am sure I am within bounds when I say that, taking: Australia as a whole, at least one-half of the estates are mortgaged up to probably 6oper cent. Under this tax hundreds of families will go under. Millions of acres will come on to the market. The men whowill gain will not be the working men, bur the speculators, who will come in and buy up land with the object of making a profit later on.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - How will the speculators make money if land values depreciate as the result of the tax?


Senator McCOLL - Because they will cut up the estates, and so escape the tax.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That will not be a bad idea.


Senator McCOLL - The Government will settle people on the land by turning off the people who are already settled there, and who have spent their all on the properties which they hold. The man who goes to effect a mortgage on a glutted market is absolutely sure of failure. In addition to the registered mortgages there are other loans from banks and other institutions, which are not registered. The managers of these institutions will take alarm, just as will private mortgagees, and will want further securities, or else will require their loans to be paid off. Some of these mortgages will affect not only the outlying districts - not only districts like 'the Riverina and the back country of Victoria - but the Western District of this State. Many farmers there have tried to secure properties for their sons, and have mortgaged their own properties for that purpose. I have it from people who know thefacts that many of such farmers will beabsolutely ruined, because they cannot meet their responsibilities in face of the taxation that is being imposed.


Senator McGregor - Will such people have more than £5,000 worth of land?


Senator McCOLL - Some of them have: '


Senator McGregor - Poor farmers?


Senator McCOLL - If a man has four or five sons, £5,000 does not go far in the Victorian Western District. If he makes himself responsible for the property of his sons, the probability is that he will lose his own land as well. There are many cases in connexion with which, when this tax is added to the interest on mortgage and the expense of working the estate, it will absorb all the income from it. The men who will suffer most from this legislation will be our best farmers, the men on whom the country really depends. Honorable senators opposite profess to desire to strike at the big land-holders in this legislation, but they are not the only men who will suffer from it, and they will not suffer most. The men who will suffer most under this Bill will be those who are struggling to keep the homes they have established, and are trying to get homes for the children who are to come after them..


Senator Findley - The farmers voted for the measure now before the Senate, knowing that it would be advantageous to them.


Senator McCOLL - They did not vote for this measure. They did not know anything about it, and Senator Findley took good care, when before the country, not to explain the details of it.


Senator Findley - He did explain them.


Senator McCOLL - I find that the following statement appears in the* GovernorGeneral's Speech made at the opening of the present session -

In view of the urgent necessity for encouraging an influx of suitable immigrants to the Commonwealth in order to more effectively develop its great resources and defend it against possible invasion, my Advisers intend to adopt a policy which it is confidently believed will, by making fertile land available, speedily induce very large numbers of people of the right kind to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.

How are they making it available? By getting it honestly? No, by taxing the owners of the land out of it and confiscating it. Land which is improved up to its full value will be liable to taxation under this Bill. There seems to be a good deal of confusion of thought as between unimproved values taxation and unimproved land taxation, but the two things are quite distinct. Many persons who have improved their holdings were under the impression that they would escape this taxation. They said, " We have put our land to the best possible use, have improved it as much as it can be improved, and ought, therefore, to escape the proposed taxation. And yet we find that our neighbours, who have not improved their land in any way, will be asked to pay no more land taxation than we shall have to pay."


Senator Findley - Under existing conditions, the man who improves his land has to pay more than the man who does not improve it.


Senator McCOLL - Land that has been fully improved, and is utilized to its full productive capacity, will be subject to this taxation. This will occur where the present value of the land is not equal to what was originally paid to the Government for it. Certainly, the amount originally paid to the Government for land should not be included iti estimating its unimproved value. The whole basis of this Bill is wrong. If we desire that lands should be fully utilized, and made productive, we should penalize those who are not making such a use of their land, and we should not penalize those who are doing the best they can with it. Senator Fraser referred to the Boisdale estate, and I know that ten or twelve years ago it was in the hands of one man, and only three people were employed upon it ; but, as soon as the sons got possession of the estate, they cut it up into farms of 400 or 500 acres each, and spent £400 in improvements on each farm. The estate is now fully settled, and is being worked to its full productive capacity. But this tax is to be imposed upon the farmers who now occupy that estate. Should they desire to purchase and the owners be willing to sell they would be unable to pay the 15 per cent., and would have to walk' off it.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Is that the estate on the other side of Maffra?


Senator McCOLL - Yes.


Senator Fraser - And 300 families will be rendered homeless.


Senator McGregor - Oh !


Senator McCOLL - All we get in answer 10 these instances is a laugh and a jeer.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I know of men who were induced to take up that land, and dropped ,£200 or £300 each over it.


Senator McCOLL - I know people on that estate at the present time who are doing extremely well. They left holdings of their own to go there, because of the advantages offered. I have already referred to the declamations we have heard against the share system, and I may say that I have known it to be carried on under most iniquitous conditions in some cases, but I have also known it to be carried cn under the finest conditions. In many cases the only way in which a working man can get a start is to take up land on the share system. A man coming here without money can go on to wheat or dairying land on the share system, and if he works hard, and is careful and thrifty, he will, in a few years, be in a position to get land of his own. It is the only system open to many people by which they can ultimately secure land for themselves.


Senator Millen - That is what the Government pamphlet says of it.


Senator McCOLL - Yes; it says it is a desirable system for newcomers. We know that one member of the Government has let his property on the share system, and I may say that, in connexion with it, there has occurred the only case of eviction that I ever heard of in Australia.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Let us have the name.


Senator McCOLL - The honorable senator knows the name. There are tenant farmers as well as share farmers occupying land in Australia, and I could mention one estate of 30,000 or 40,000 acres that is held by a number of tenant farmers. From £400 to £500 has been spent by the owner 011 each of these farms, but there is a mortgage on the estate, and under this legislation, when the tenant farmers are asked to find the 15 per cent, deposit, they will have to walk off their properties. Instances of this kind could be multiplied.


Senator Millen - Quite a number of estates in New South Wales are being subdivided to-day on a 10 per cent, deposit.


Senator McCOLL - With regard to the improvement of land, I have already referred to the difficulty of obtaining labour. Assuming that this legislation would make millions of acres available for settlement, who are we to get to settle them? A man going in for ordinary farming in Australia would require from £300 to £350 for implements alone to make a start.


Senator Millen - The Government pamphlet says £390.


Senator McCOLL - I mention a low estimate. It would cost the settler from ;£i6o to ^200 for a team of horses for his implements. To take up 300 or 400 acres of land for the growth of wheat or other cereals a man would require an immediate capital of .£300 or ^400, and would then have to borrow something to get a start. There are many land-owners who are quite willing to cut up their estates; but the Government give them no opportunity to do so. In another place, a motion was submitted to extend the time to December during which land-owners might cut up their estates. We are told that the Government are proposing this taxation in order to burst up large estates; but they will not give land-owners time in which to subdivide their estates. The land-owner is trapped under this Bill. In New Zealand, when similar legislation was proposed, time was given to land-owners to advertise the subdivision of their estates, and to look around for people to take up their land. No time is given to landowners in Australia for this purpose ; and, in the circumstances, I ask how the Government can say that it is their intention to burst up big estates when they refuse to give the holders of them the necessary time in which to subdivide them? When honorable senators opposite were before the electors there was no talk of a land tax of 6d. in the j£i. The highest rate mentioned then was 4d. in the £1 ; and I say that, even now, the Government should reconsider the matter and give the owners of big estates in Australia an opportunity to subdivide them. We do not urgently require the revenue to be derived under this measure for the next year or two. The Government might at least give land-owners another year in which to cut up their estates ; and, if they have failed to do so in that time, they might be fairly subjected to this taxation. The Government are proposing in this Bill to tax, not merely good land, but grazing and poor lands as well. They propose to tax land in the dry country that is being put to its best possible use at the present time. All that it is possible to do with a great deal of our land is to grow sheep and cattle upon it ; and that is what is being done at the present time. The unimproved value of much of that land is actually less than the owners paid for it in hard cash. Where is the unearned increment in the case of such lands ? On what are their owners to be taxed? They cannot subdivide the land, because no one would take it up in small areas ; and it can only be put to the use to which it is being put at the present time. The owners of these lands will have to pay this tax or walk off their properties. They are not suitable for closer settlement; and though they only brought about £1 per acre all round, their value has gone down instead of going up. There might be some justice in a proposal to impose land taxation on the better land of the Commonwealth ; but there is no justification for the imposition of this land tax on such lands as 1 have just described. The proposed tax will be equal to from 10 to 50 per cent, of the income, according to the area held ; and this means that the owners will have to pay from one bale in ten to five bales in ten of the wool they get from their holdings. We know, also, that the holders of land who are making most out of it in this country are not free-holders, but leaseholders who are leasing land from the State and paying little more than a peppercorn rental for it. These people will escape taxation under this measure, although they are making large fortunes from the use of Crown lands. No honorable senator will contend that that is fair. I wish to refer again to the rate suggested in the manifesto of the Labour party. The maximum mentioned was 4d. in the £1 Mr. Fisher, in his speech at Gympie, proposed a tax of 4d. in the £1 ; and, in the circumstances, I ask whether this Bill is not a breach of faith with the people? How is it that we have a confiscatory tax of 6d., equal to half the earnings from the land, proposed ? The Prime Minister has said that it is because he had 6d. in the £1 on his notes. Was there ever a lamer statement made by a responsible Minister of the Crown? Either the honorable gentleman was misleading the people, or the Government are trying to do so now. At any rate, the Government are not keeping faith with the people.


Senator Lynch - The people were quite content to take Mr. Fisher's statement on trust. The 4d. in the £1 rate was meant for purposes of illustration.


Senator McCOLL - Then why do not honorable senators opposite fix the tax at is. in the £1? They might just as well propose to rob a man of the whole of his income from land as propose to rob him of half of it.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator knows that he tried to make out that the tax would be is. when he was before the electors.


Senator McCOLL - I did nothing of the kind.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes ; the honorable senator did.


Senator McCOLL - The honorable senator is making an absolutely incorrect statement. If I were somewhere else I should designate the statement by a stronger term. We have been told that the result of the proposed tax will be merely to restore to the Slate a portion of the value which the community has created in these lands. This idea of the unearned increment is a very complicated one, and one which to my mind does not work out altogether justly. For instance, what unearned increment is there in the case of the lands of Gippsland, where men have had to clear the country at an expenditure ot £40, £50 or £60 per acre, and where they cannot obtain that price tor it to-day ? Where does the question of the unearned increment arise in connexion with mallee lands ? We all know that there, through drought and bad seasons, men have been driven off their holdings again and again. It is only the second and third generation of farmers who have succeeded. There is no question of unearned increment there.


Senator Sayers - I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]


Senator McCOLL - Take the case of a great newspaper. Is there no unearned increment in connexion with that? What makes a newspaper great but the construction of railways and the presence of people? The same remark is applicable to a softgoods house in Flinders-lane. What Has made it but the railways and the spread of population? So we may traverse the whole scale of individuals who have made money in this country. How much of our parliamentary salary of .£600 a year represents unearned increment? Why should a man upon the land who has had to struggle, perhaps for a lifetime, to achieve success, be specially penalized in this matter of the unearned increment? We have been repeatedly told that the construction of railways has enhanced the values of land. But many of our settlers opened up the country long before the railways were built. In America, we know that the railways preceded settlement. Yet there is no talk there about imposing taxation of this description. It is too bad that the men who have opened up the country should be specially penalized because of the cry which has been raised in regard to the unearned increment. What will be the influence of this tax upon outside investors? It is bound to affect Australian credit. To-day the States have a public indebtedness of £251>77Z>533> of which amount 75 per cent, has been raised in London. We shall have to borrow still further. If the Commonwealth does not borrow, the States will have to do so. What sort of a reception will they receive in view of this repudia- tion - this confiscation of interest ? At present New South Wales pays annually by way of interest upon her public debt £ii75>3%°) Victoria, £1,948,094; Queensland, £1.634,787; South Australia, YUL 114,944 ; Western Australia £756,599 ; and Tasmania, £370,068. The States arc thus contributing in interest £8,999,872 annually. During the next five years loans amounting to £20,409,899 will fall due, and these will either have to be paid or renewed. What sort of a reception will our financiers receive when they approach the London money market and ask for a renewal of these loans? Will they not be obliged to pay more interest upon them? During the following three years an additional £24,166,003 will fall due. In other words, during the next eight years, loans amounting to £48,175,902 will mature. I wish the State Treasurers joy when they endeavour to secure a renewal of these loans. We have also to recollect that the private borrowings of Australia amount to £^200,000,000. This money has been expended in developing the country.


Senator Walker - I call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]


Senator McCOLL - We all recognise that the development of Australia is due to public and private borrowing, and that we shall have to continue to borrow. We cannot avoid doing so. If we are going to pay for the construction of desert railways, for the building of a Federal Capital, and for all sorts of nationalization fads out of taxation, we shall bleed the country white. We must consider the ultimate effect of such taxation. We must consider its effect upon the States, of whom we are the trustees, and of whom we should be the special guardians. Surely it is not proposed to develop the Northern Territory out of revenue? Such an undertaking is not to be thought of. The Prime Minister has already received a warning from London regarding the effect of the proposed tax. I suppose, however, that honorable senators opposite will laugh at that warning. What was the cablegram which the Prime Minister received as to the alarm which the proposed tax had caused amongst British investors ? The following is a newspaper extract -

The following cable has been received by the Prime Minister from the British Australasian Society : - " Proposed Federal land tax is creating feeling of serious alarm in circles here deeply interested in Australia. Influential meeting of companies largely interested submits follow ing representation to Commonwealth Government, namely : - The tax is oppressively heavy, invidious in its incidence, largely destructive of land values, injurious to land-owners, as well as to mortgagors and mortgagees, likely to re£200,000flow of capital into Australia in connexion with land settlement, and development, and to induce withdrawal of money already supplied ; provisions for assessment of individual shareholders inquisitorial and impracticable; penalizing of absentee land-owners unjust and impolitic. Tax will conflict with existing land taxation of individual States, and, added to that, will impose an intolerable burden. Meeting not opposed to policy of closer settlement, which can be, and is being, largely promoted by present land-owners, but strongly deprecates the passing into law of the proposed measure, as inimical to best interests of Commonwealth and its people, as well as of those who have invested capital there."

That warning ought not to pass unheeded. If it does we shall find later on, when we wish to renew our Joans, that it will be translated into something very much worse than a warning. British investors will not send their money here any longer. They will invest it in Canada and the United States, where they can secure a fair deal. Under this Bill the individuals who have invested in private property in Australia will be doubly taxed. I agree with Senator Symon that the absentee who, having made his money here goes abroad to live, and merely draws dividends from this country ought to be taxed. But those persons who have never resided here, but have invested their money here, ought not to be singled out for special disabilities. There is another aspect of this matter which we ought not to forget, namely, the way in which the proposed tax will deplete the funds of the States. Surely it is a misnomer to call the Senate a States' House, seeing that it is doing all that it can to crush the States instead of to protect them. This Parliament has obtruded upon the domain of the States in the matter of direct taxation. At present the settlers in remote districts are crying out for the construction of railways and roads, and for water conservation. And what answer can the States give to their requests? They can only say, "The Commonwealth Parliament has robbed us of the funds that we need, and, therefore, we cannot do what you desire." That is the answer which is already being given. For what are we taking this money from the people? Po construct desert railways and a Federal Capital, to take over the Northern Territory, and possibly to spend a portion of it upon a trip to the Coronation festivities. One of the most disheartening spectacles which one can witness is the callous attitude of honorable members opposite towards this Bill. Do- they realize what they are doing?


Senator Story - Of course we do.


Senator McCOLL - My honorable friend is the easiest going member of the Senate. Either honorable senators opposite do not realize what they are doing, or they are content to ignore their responsibilities. The most earnest protests have been made against the Bill without any avail. To the able and eloquent arguments put forward by members of another place, only one answer has been given, namely, that the Caucus has settled it.


Senator de Largie - The country has settled it as the honorable senator will find when he goes before his constituency.


Senator McCOLL - A seat in the Senate is merely an incident in my life. The principles of honesty and justice are very much dearer to me. It has been said that the bulk of the clauses of the Bill have been copied from the New Zealand Act. But in the Dominion the land-owners were allowed time within which to subdivide their estates. There, the tax was imposed gradually. Further, there is only one taxing authority in New Zealand. The valuation of land by land-owners themselves was given up after the passing of the Act, being found unjust and unworkable.


Senator McGregor - Wrong again, as usual !


Senator McCOLL - Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that in New Zealand the land-owners still value their own land ? The honorable gentleman does not answer me. He was good enough to include in his speech upon this measure a comparative table relating to land taxation and showing how the assessments are made. The honorable senator says that I am wrong. But he has told us that in New Zealand the assessment is made by Government valuers, that the Lands Department employs a permanent expert staff of valuers, and supplies the assessment rolls used by the Land and Income Tax Department. In New Zealand there is no selfvaluation. Again, its circumstances are quite different from ours. New Zealand is only a small country, with a small population, being quite dissimilar from this enormous continent. In New Zealand they have no droughts, and their seasons are steady. Yet it is said here, " See what a land tax has done for New Zealand." What is claimed for New Zealand is attri butable, not to its land tax, but to its borrowing policy. They have borrowed within a few pounds of £80,000,000 ; in 1908-9 they borrowed £4,484,637. It is the influx of borrowed money which has sustained New Zealand, and given her the prosperity which is wrongly attributed to the land tax. There is another aspect from which I should like this measure to be considered, and that is the ethical effect of this taxation. It is a politically immoral tax. It cannot be defended on the ground of morality, because, to my mind, it is not an honest impost. Of course, this taxation is popular with a section, because it hits the other man ; but legislation which is not on a sound moral basis is rotten, and is sure to work its punishment before very long. The reaction is bound to come. The penal clauses in this Bill cannot be found in any other taxation measure. The object of the penal provisions, combined with the selfvaluation, is to terrify land-owners into making excessive valuations. All our depressions have been natural, but the depression which will result from the imposition of this land tax will be brought about by political influences alone. If I thought that that was likely to be the ultimate trend of this kind of legislation,. I should despair of Australia, but I believe that the people will come to their senses, and see the injustice of many provisions in this measure. Opportunity has been taken by the Caucus to overstep the policy placed before the country at the general election. The Government had not the pluck to stand by that policy. It is said that the proposed rate of 6d: in the £1 is a compromise between a section of the Caucus, which wanted to levy a tax of 8d., and a section which favoured a tax of 4d. At the general election the members of the Government spoke of a tax of 4d., and, as honest men, they should have stood by what they put before the people. We cannot alter the rate, as we have not the numbers ; we can only protest against its imposition. If this is what can he done " in the green tree," we can look forward with some dismay to what may be done "in the dry." This legislation is part of a squeezing process to extinguish the States, by depleting them of revenue. Ten years ago the members of the present Government, and nearly all their supporters, were Unificationists. They did not get their way at the Federal Convention, but now, by a curious conjunction of circumstances, they have their way, and are making the best of their opportunity. They are boring into the Federation bit by bit, and will keep on boring until the States become mere shadows. If this measure be passed, further steps will have to be taken. I look forward with some curiosity to find out what those steps will be. This is only the thin end of the wedge. We have been told that an income tax is to follow this land tax, and asked if we will support its imposition.. I believe that before very long - probably during next session - we shall be asked to enact an income tax. I propose now to refer to a few clauses of the Bill. First, I do not think it is proper that the Land Tax Commissioner should be under the control of the Minister. The administration of this measure should be conducted absolutely apart from politics. So far as I am aware, the Commissioner of Taxes in every State is uncontrolled by the political head. Clause 4 reads -

There shall be a Commissioner of Taxes, who shall, subject to the control of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.

If the Minister has control of the Commissioner, what power he will have to ruin a man ! The Bill ought to have contained a definition of "improvements." When men start to write out their assessmentpaper they will be absolutely in a fog. They will be unable to say what are improvements and what are not. They will probably put down as improvements clearing which is not now visible, and so find themselves above the margin of 25 percent, which is allowed. The provision enabling owners to cut up their land ought to be continued until at least the end of the financial year. The provision that a man shall value his own land is absolutely unjust and unwarrantable. It is a cruel position to put an owner in.


Senator Story - It will be easy enough for any honest man.


Senator McCOLL - It will not be easy for any man to state the unimproved value of his land when the law will not contain a definition of " improvements." For instance, a man may put down as improvements things which will not be allowed by the Commissioner. It is all very fine for my honorable friend to loll on the bench and talk in that way, because he will not have the trouble of filling up a return. I know men who say, " I am prepared to take the Government valuation whatever it is, and pay a tax rather than have the valuing thrust on my shoulders." This will place property-owners in a difficult and delicate position. Seeing that the system of self-valuation had to be abandoned in New Zealand, where it could be carried out much more easily, surely, in Australia the Government might have been guided by their experience. I have dealt with the question of mortgagors, who, I repeat, have been treated cruelly and unjustly. A large number of amendments were made in the Bill in another place, and for them the country has to thank the Opposition. They fought the Bill ably ; many of their suggestions were adopted, and the measure is now more workable than it was. But the penal clauses are very harsh indeed. If a man undervalues his land, he can be haled before the High Court ; and if a Judge finds that it is undervalued, the property- will be confiscated, or the owner fined £500 and treble the amount of the tax. Any one who knows anything about land can understand that honest valuers can differ in their valuations to the extent of from 25 to 50 per cent.


Senator Story - What does the honorable senator suggest?


Senator McCOLL - I suggest that the land should be valued by impartial Government officers, who understand their business and the tax levied on their valuations. In no other place is an owner called upon to value his land. The great bulk of the clauses in this measure are taken from other Acts, the stringency of which has been modified from time to time ; but, towards the end, we find certain clauses which the Government can proudly claim as their very own, being absolutely original. Clause 67 reads - (1.) Any person who, with intent to defraud, in any return understates the unimproved value of any land, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

Who is to say whether a man has acted with intent to defraud or not? According to the Commissioner's idea, he may have undervalued his land ; but, nevertheless, it may be a perfectly honest valuation. If it is 25 per cent, below what the Commissioner thinks it ought to be, the owner will be guilty of an indictable offence for which the following punishment is provided -

Penalty : Five hundred pounds and an amount equal to treble the amount of the tax which would have been evaded if the value stated in the return had been accepted as the unimproved value of the land; or forfeiture of the land undervalued or any part thereof.

That is only the first of the lovely clauses which the inner consciousness of the AttorneyGeneral, or some member of his party has evolved. Clause 68 reads -

Any person who, by any wilful act default or neglect, or by any fraud art or contrivance whatever, evades or attempts to evade assessment or taxation, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

Penalty : Five hundred pounds and treble the amount of the tax payment whereof he has evaded or attempted to evade; or forfeiture of the land in respect of which the offence was committed, or any part thereof.

That is a monstrous provision. If the Bill denned " improvements," a man could calculate to a point what the unimproved value was. But it does not indicate what he should consider as improvements. If a man puts down items which are not allowed, he will find himself outside the 25 per cent, margin, and therefore liable to a fine of £500, and treble the amount of the tax or the confiscation of his land. Here is another clause which is the Government's very own, and of which I am assured they are very proud - (1.) Where, on the conviction of any person under either of the last two preceding sections, the penalty of forfeiture of any of his land has been imposed, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare that the- estate or interest of that person in the land is forfeited to the Commonwealth.

An owner can get no redress in any shape or form. In my opinion, the proposition is simply monstrous. I cannot conceive of a fair-minded honest man supporting it. I cannot understand how men who, in their private affairs are the very soul of honour, bringing in legislation which is politically immoral and dishonest. I hold with Senator Symon and others that if this measure be passed as it is, not only will the fair name of Australia be smirched, but we shall be hampered on every side, shall lose our credit in the Old Country, shall be held up as a dishonest nation; and, instead of attracting immigrants as we desire, we shall find them going away to other countries. I can only trust that when we get into Committee the Government will be prepared to adopt some amendments, in order that the rigour of the tax may be mitigated to some extent, and the fair fame of Australia saved.







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