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Wednesday, 26 October 1910


Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am sorry to have to again refer to this matter, but I am so impressed with the seriousness of it that I make no apology for doing so.


Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator is again barracking for his friends.


Senator MILLEN - I am quite aware that a certain type of man sees some ulterior object in everything that another says. Senator Gardiner is welcome to his opinion. Having had his sleep, the honorable senator might now keep as quiet as he was when he was asleep. He was adorning the chamber and fulfilling a much more useful function when he was asleep than he has done since he woke up. Senator Rae just now laid down an unquestionable definition of the value of improvements from one stand-point. That is the definition adopted in the land laws of New South Wales. The value of an improvement is its value to an incoming tenant, but not exceeding the original cost of making the improvement. I am sure that Senator Rae is supporting the Bill in the belief that it provides for that, and therefore I cannot understand how he can support a definition which violates what he believes to be an essential principle. The principle is set out in the paragraph defining " unimproved value."

I ask Senator Rae to look at the definition of the " value of improvements " and say whether that principle is not violated. There is no doubt that it is, and that there is a conflict between these definitions, the value of improvements being estimated on one basis in one, and on a different basis in another. If honorable senators think that the first definition is correct, they ought to amend the second, but if, on the contrary, they agree with me, they ought to amend the first. Let me give an illustration to show how it will work out. Under a later clause, a man who returns his land at 25 per cent, short of its value is liable to have it taken away from him. Take a case which was fought out before the Land Board in New South Wales, and which is known as the Iandra case. In that district, there was land with green timber, which was valued at £2 an acre, while land which was alongside, and which formed the subject of the litigation, was valuable, and being sold then at over £$ per acre. Owing to ring-barking and drying, the land with dry timber could be cleared for 10s. per acre, but the land with green timber would have cost at least 30s. per acre to clear. The result was that men were prepared to give £1 per acre more to get on to the good land with dry timber than to get on to corresponding land with green timber. One pound, therefore, ' was added to the value of the land as the result of the expenditure of 2s. or 3s. The first definition I referred to states that a man shall value his land practically on the basis of the cost of the improvements, which was 2s. or 3s. per acre. The second definition says that he shall not take the cost of the improvements, but the £1 added to the value of the land by reason of the original expenditure. I am not arguing which definition is right, but certainly both definitions cannot be right. I am surprised that the Ministry do not see that a conflict exists, and for the sake of their own credit, set to work to remedy it. Possibly, the explanation is that the clause is not now as it left the hands of the draftsman. In the other House, there was a prolonged controversy over the first of these definitions. Amendment after amendment was submitted by the Attorney-Genera], one being submitted, withdrawn, and re-submitted. That is how I think the conflict between the two definitions arose. But whether that be so or not, under the first definition an owner is required to deduct from the value of his land only the cost of making an improvement. Let us assume that he follows the second definition, and says, " I am entitled to take off the value added by the improvement. The land is worth £$ per acre. The added value by reason of that improvement is ,£1. I am entitled, under the definition of ' value of improvements ' to take off the value added to the land by the improvement, which is £1." He therefore returns the value of his land at £2. The Commissioner then comes along, under the previous definition, and says, " You are liable to have your land forfeited, because you have not returned it within 25 per cent, of the true value. What you ought to have done was to take off the cost of the improvements, to value the land as if the improvements were not there " ! In doing that, he would have brought the value of his land possibly to £2 15s. or £2 16s., as against £2. I feel quite convinced, and I believe that I have impressed honorable senators with the fact, that there is a conflict between the two definitions. I shall be quite satisfied if the Ministry will tell me that they will confer with the draftsman on the point. I do not want particularly to move an amendment, but I do wish to see that, for our credit's sake, we do not pass a definition which is bound to be a source of trouble, conflict, and irritation.







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