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Tuesday, 15 December 1914

Senator READY (Tasmania) .- I had not intended to speak, in view of the state of the business, but, as Senator Gould interjects, the reference by Senator Millen to the shilling land tax has brought me to my feet. I stated on the hustings throughout the campaign, and. made no secret of it, that I believed in. a land tax that would reach ls. in the £1 on estates over £100,000. I still hold that view. One would think that Senator Millen had made a remarkable discovery, but I have always stated my view on that point openly, and during; the recent campaign in Tasmania I stated frankly from every platform that rather than impose, for war or any other purpose, extra taxation that would fall on the bulk of the community, I would support an increase in the Federal land tax. It may have been injudicious. to> advocate increased taxation just before an election, and probably those are not. the tactics that honorable senators opposite would pursue; but I did it, and I felt justified in thus publicly stating my belief.

We are marching, I hope, along the high road to economic progress, and I am confident that we eventually will thoroughly overhaul our system of taxation generally. There is great need for it. Various estimates have been prepared and scrutinized by Government statisticians and others in a position to check figures accurately, and the facts bear out my statement that our present system of taxation falls very heavily on those with lower incomes. Our friends opposite know that Customs duties fall on the bulk of the masses.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - Who drink champagne and expensive wines, I suppose ?

Senator READY - Not many of them are in a position to drink champagne.

Senator Millen - You say that the Customs duties fall heavily on the masses. Is that why you support them ?

Senator READY - I am not a supporter of revenue duties. I do not advocate the policy put forward by some of the big metropolitan newspapers of putting a tax on tea and kerosene. We do not favour those duties.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. -Why?

Senator READY - Because it has been estimated by an actuary in the Victorian Government Statist's Office - and I have never seen the estimate contradicted - that of the £15,000,000 Customs duties £12,000,000 .is paid by the poorer and middle classes of the community.

Senator Millen - I think that is pretty right.

Senator READY - It is so; and, for that reason, I do not believe in revenue duties. When the Tariff comes before us, I think I shall prove it by my vote, which will not err on the side of insufficient protection. There is another feature, applying particularly to Tasmania, the most heavily taxed State in the Commonwealth. We in that State had a very heavy burden of direct taxation to bear for many years on account of our geographical position. A set of figures was carefully prepared some time ago by Mr. W. E. Shoobridge, and submitted to Mr. R. M. Johnston, the Government Statist of Tasmania.

Senator Stewart - In Tasmania you pay only £ per cent, on the unimproved value.

Senator READY - Our land tax is heavier than any other State land tax in the Commonwealth. It starts at Id. and goes up to 2Jd., and we have also a heavy income tax. Yet the estimate carefully prepared by Mr. Shoobridge, and checked and substantiated by our Government Statist, shows that the man with an income of £200 and under pays 8 per cent, of his income in direct and indirect taxation, or £16 per annum to the Commonwealth and State revenues, while the man with an income of £1,000 per annum pays only 3£ per cent, for the same purposes. That is what our honorable friends opposite call equality of sacrifice. No system of taxation can be fair that has such unfair results. There must be something radically wrong, and this Bill, although we hope to realize £1,100,000 by it, will not level up the inequality. It will go a certain distance towards it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Will you ever level up inequalities ?

Senator READY - I hope the Labour party will honestly try to do so, for I take it that that is what the people sent us here for.

Senator Millen - You are not doing it when you put the additional tax on about 10,000 people.

Senator READY - I think about 15.000 people pay the Federal land tax. The effect of this Bill will be to make them pay a little more in proportion to their incomes than they have done in the past, but still not enough.

I want to show the tactics of our honorable friends opposite with regard to the taxation of land. We have been accused more than once of being prepared to lower the exemption. The statement that I would support a land tax of ls. in the £1 was put into every Liberal leaflet and newspaper circulated in Australia, and an endeavour was made by honorable senators opposite to fasten that policy on the Labour party. I do not blame them for that so much, but they "were unfair in inferring that the ls. land tax would apply indiscriminately to all land-holders. To prove my contention, I have here a cutting from the leading Liberal northern newspaper in Tasmania, the Launceston Examiner. It is headed, " Election Issues - Some Points for the Farmers," and, strange to say, the next column is headed, " Our Daily Fiction." Apparently the headings got mixed. In the "Points for the Farmers," compiled by one Stanley Dryden, of Launceston, appears the statement which Senator Millen has quoted, but with it is cunningly bracketed a statement made by Senator Stewart in the Senate, in order to create the impression that the land tax was going to penalize all the small farmers, producers, and fruit-growers of Tasmania. My statement that I would support a land tax up to ls. in the £1 is quoted, but no mention is made of the fact that I did not advocate a flat rate of ls. in the £1. My proposal was a tax that would reach ls. in the £1 over £70,000 in value.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Did the honorable senator qualify his statement in that way at that time?

Senator READY - Yes; I made it clear that I would support a tax up to ls. in the £1 on very big estates, and not a flat rate.

Senator Lynch - What would be the effective rate of your proposal?

Senator READY - It would be an average of 6d. in the £1.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator forgets how many millions he said he would collect.

Senator READY - I said it would return us another £1,000,000 per annum.

Senator Millen - A great deal more than that.

Senator READY - No.

Senator Millen - You made my mouth water at the prospect of handling the millions.

Senator READY - The honorable senator is referring to a speech I made on the taxation of unearned incomes, which is another matter. I said that we could obtain another £1,000,000 a year from our land tax. We are getting the amount to-day, and the rate is not' as high as I advocated on that occasion. Coming back to this writer, tearing my statement from its context, he cunningly goes on to say-

That is Labour policy - taxes, more and still more taxes, for the producer* All its burdens are for the man on the land. In Labour's eyes that is what the producer is for - " to carry the baby "-every time and all the time.

Senator Millen - It is a very accurate description.

Senator READY - Another of my honorable friend's daily misrepresentations. It is at election time an accurate description of the class of stuff which passes for argument in Liberal journals. The writer continues -

There is a £5,000 exemption to-day, but it is admitted that it must go.

Now, the writer dovetails something cleverly torn from the context with something said by my honorable friend, Senator Stewart, who does not seem worried at all, and it is printed between inverted commas - "It will not be £5,000, or £500 either, but something less than either of those sums." - Mr. Stewart, in the Senate.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - That is correct, is it not ?

Senator READY - Senator Stewartmay have made that statement.

Senator Millen - He made it, or the equal of it, many times.

Senator READY - What right had the . newspapers, because Senator Stewart made the statement, to say that the exemption from the tax. was to go, and that our proposal was to. tax every small farmer and producer?

Senator Millen - Because you are so steadily moving in that direction.

Senator READY - Entirely incorrect. I will quote the words of the writer to show how cleverly the Liberals distorted the position. Continuing, he says -

Let the farmer put the two together, and he will be able to form some idea of what a Labour regime may have in store for him.

A land tax up to ls. in the £1, with an exemption of less than £500! It is enough to make the man on the land think very hard. With reason may he pray for deliverance from the socialistic, as well as from the German hosts. If either get their way, he will have nothing left.

I want to protest against this kind of thing. I want to protest especially against certain gentlemen connected with, my honorable friend opposite - there are not many of them here now - who were questioned at public meetings as to their attitude on the land tax. No one could get a straight-out answer in any respect. The candidates quibbled about the matter. They know very well that we got back topower pledged to an exemption of £5,000 \ that was clear to them. They knew very well that we advocated an effective land tax, yet they misrepresented the whole issue, and when they were challenged from the platform to state what they would do with the land tax, Senator Bakhap said he would return the money to the States. He did not say that he was against the land tax. He did not take the stand which the newspaper took, but he said that if he could have his way he would return the money collected by the Federal land tax to the States.

Senator Bakhap - And the State Labour party is protesting against the Federal tax as an infringement of their realm of taxation.

Senator READY - A protest is being made to a limited degree only, not by all the members of the State Labour party.

Senator Bakhap - The resolution will be carried, though. » Senator READY. - I am not prepared to forecast the decision. The fact is that a majority of the State Labour party do not condemn this tax. The State Treasurer has made some remarks about the heavy taxation which the Federal Parliament was imposing, and with which he did not agree. But there is no Labour man in the State who condemns the principle of the Federal tax. My honorable friend opposite cannot point to an instance where any of them has done so.

Senator Bakhap - All that I can say is that the State Treasurer has . expressed himself to the effect that he is hostile to the imposition of the land tax at the present time.

Senator READY - In my opinion, the State Treasurer is wrong, inasmuch as he does not realize the position of the Commonwealth, nor do I think that he realizes the position of land monopoly in Tasmania. It is the State which is suffering most from that evil. It has been built up by an unjust system. There is no doubt that my honorable friend apologized for its existence. In Tasmania we have a pernicious system. When we obtained the gift of self-government it existed, and it continued right up to thirty or forty years ago, with the result that out of 6,000,000 acres of land alienated, 2,000,000 were given away for nothing, and so the community is suffering to-day. The eyes of the State - the fertile plains and the beautiful valleys - are monopolized, and until a tax sufficiently heavy is imposed we need not look forward to any improvement taking place.

Senator Bakhap - You have to do that in every new country.

Senator READY - Suffice it to say that in the case of Tasmania it was done to an unfair and inordinate extent. Let any one turn up the history of Van Diemen's Land, written by Mr. Henry Melville in 1835, to whom the authorities promptly gave twelve months in gaol for publishing the book. He was rather a Socialist, a Labour man, and a reformer in those days, and he advocated the principle of leasehold for Tasmania. He pointed out clearly and unmistakably in his quaint old volume that had the policy of leasehold been adopted there by the Government between 1830 and 1840, the money obtained from the leases would have been sufficient in twenty-five years to defray the governmental upkeep, a most magnificent example of the single tax idea, although I do not agree with it in its entirety.

Senator de Largie - How much did they give him for that ?

Senator READY - The authorities gave Mr. Melville a year in gaol for writing the book, and confiscated it. There are only about seven copies of the book in existence. The copy in the Parliamentary Library will repay reading. What does Mr. Melville tell us in his book 1 He points out that in Tasmania nearly all the large estates were free gifts.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - There was some condition attached to the gift.

Senator READY - No; there was no more lamentable manner of giving away land than that which pertained in Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap - It was a reward for services in many cases.

Senator READY - My honorable friend holds a brief for these people, I know.

Senator Bakhap - I hold a brief for everybody -who has been unfairly dealt with, whether he is rich or poor.

Senator READY - The holders of big estates in Tasmania are not unfairly dealt with. They are being made to pay their just dues. I propose to relate some of the methods which were adopted in the early days. Were it not for the fact that some of their decendants constitute old and well-to-do-families - I do not desire to refer to their ancestors - I could give the ' names if the honorable senator wanted them. Prior to 1830 an Imperial edict was issued to Governor Arthur that no man in Tasmania should get more than 2,900 acres of land as a free grant. Yet the Governor, who was surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on, broke the law repeatedly. One wellknown family, whose name I will give to the honorable senator privately, received 70,000 acres of picked land in Norfolk Plains, in the Cressy District, for absolutely nothing, simply because they were favorites and hangers-on of the Governor. If my honorable friend opposite wants substantiation of what I have said, let him turn up John West's or Fenton's History of Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap - Do you allege that every large estate in Tasmania was obtained by surreptitious means?

Senator READY - I did not allege that. What I said was that, out of 6,000,000 acres alienated in Tasmania, a third was given away for nothing.

Senator Bakhap - Was it not the method of rewarding Imperial officers for public services?

Senator READY - My honorable friend knows perfectly well that I have stated that it was not. I have already indicated how a definite law was broken, and broken repeatedly. We are paying to-day the penalty and the price for the lack of statesmanship, the pernicious Government, and the favoritism of Governor Arthur in the early thirties. For that reason alone the imposition of the land tax is justified. But there are other reasons to be cited. What are the large land-holders doing to-day for Tasmania? They talk .about patriotism, but, as we all know, there are different brands of it. Some patriotism consists in buying the biggest Union Jack and flying it on a pole. That form of patriotism is much in vogue to-day. We are putting these patriots to the test. If they believe in defending the Empire we are getting a little more, in the shape of land tax, to provide the sinews of war at this critical juncture.

Senator Keating - Why do you not let some of the most wealthy men in Tasmania go to the front when they are offering?

Senator READY - That is entirely another matter, but I have not noticed a burning desire on the part of most of the large land-holders in Tasmania to go to the front, and I have been watching them most carefully.

Senator Keating - I have.

Senator READY - I have noticed that many men who object to this taxation speak of the unemployed contemptuously, and off -handedly say, "Let them go to the front and fight if they have no work to do." It is not sufficient for men to be penalized by the fact that they have no worldly wealth, but they must go and fight for those who have. That is a strange doctrine, indeed.

Senator Bakhap - Institute conscription and send them to the front, and then there will be no argument about who shall go and who shall not.

Senator READY - If time permitted I would deal with some of the big estates in Tasmania. I shall give some instances of the conditions of the employes. Let me tell Senator Bakhap that, according to recent inquiries I have been making among the big estates, the wage position is still not what we would desire it to be.

Senator McDougall - They pay 4s. a day to married men.

Senator READY - That is so.

Senator Millen - Is that under a Labour Government?

Senator McDougall - No; that was done before the Labour Government came into existence, and they have not had time to rectify it yet.

Senator READY - The land-owners who pay these miserable rates led the agitation against the rural workers' log, and, if my honorable friend opposite wants their names, I can give them. The other day I received a letter from a man in which lie said that at Oatlands a farm labourer was getting 22s. 6d. a week, at Jericho two farm labourers were each getting 22s., and keeping themselves.

Senator Guy - Wages have risen there.

Senator READY - Yes; the rate has gone up about 2s. or 3s. It used to be £1 a week. They work sometimes 11 or 12 hours a day. At Jericho, another man is paid 24s. a week. At Kempton, Constitution Hill, and Crabtree, men are paid £1 a week, and keep themselves, by big landlords, who are retarding the progress of Tasmania. The land tax alone would justify our existence if nothing else did. My honorable friend opposite will not go out on a platform and openly oppose the tax. He still hints at confiscation, which is a mere catch-cry of the other side.

Senator Bakhap - I am willing, to stand to anything I have ever said in connexion with the land tax.

Senator READY - " A confiscatory tax " is a cry we have heard before. If that kind of argument were applied to every proposal, our health laws would not be improved, because the business of some persons would be confiscated.

Senator Bakhap - We had a land tax in Tasmania long before there was a Commonwealth land tax imposed.

Senator READY - We had a very low tax.

Senator Bakhap - You want the lot of it; why not say so?

Senator READY - I know that my honorable friend does not like my references to confiscation. It is a great word with him when he is on the platform.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Has he lost by virtue of it ?

Senator READY - He did not have as easy a passage as he would have liked, and but for the fact that two candidates bore the same surname, one being Labour and the other Liberal, I believe that he would have missed the number of his mess.

Senator Bakhap - I took it much more easily than any of you did, and I was pretty close up when all is said and done.

Senator READY - The honorable senator got in by hanging on to my coattails. When our friends opposite talk of confiscating, they might in just the same way object to health laws, because they confiscate the business of the undertaker, or to pure food laws, because they confiscate the business of the doctor.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator is falling into the very common error of comparing things that are not alike.

Senator READY - The comparison is a fair one. There can be no confiscation when the great needs of the vast masses of the people are concerned. The people of Tasmania, which is the finest State of the lot, will have no reason to regret that we have increased the Federal land tax. Already we have had good results from its imposition. The Van Diemen's Land Company are selling their estates to-day, and Brock Brothers are also selling portion of their estates. I hope that, as a result, we shall see a rapid increase in the rate of settlement, an increase which Senator Bakhap will find it very hard to explain when he next appears on the hustings. Our State land tax in Tasmania runs up to 2£d. in the £1. We shall have added to that 9d. in the £1 under the Federal land tax, which will make the taxation on the very big estates in Tasmania Hid. in the £1.

Senator Guy - Which is pretty close to the honorable senator's ls. in the £1.

Senator READY - That is so. It is important to remember that land taxation was not fully exploited by the State Government until the Federal Labour party came into power in this Parliament.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - It was exploited in New South Wales years before.

Senator READY - I do not wish to weary honorable senators with figures, but I quote a few from Mr. Knibbs, which clearly explain the position. In 1900, the total land taxation of the Commonwealth amounted to only 2s. 8d. per capita. In 1911 it went down to 2s. Id. The Legislative Councils have been getting in their deadly work. In 1911, when we imposed the first Federal land tax, that amounted to 6s. 2d. per capita, or to three times as much as the State taxation.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - How much per capita did it amount to upon those who paid the tax ?

Senator READY.It was passed on only in a very few instances.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - It amounted to much more than 6s. 2d. per capita of those who had to pay it.

Senator READY - The State land taxation in 1912 amounted to 2s. 5d. per capita. Our tax for the same year was 6s., or 8s. 5d. per capita in all. In 1913 the State taxation was 2s. 6d., and the Federal taxation 6s. 7d. per capita. So that, at the present time, and before the increase which this Bill will provide for, the land taxation of the Commonwealth amounted to about 9s. Id. per capita. If we go to New Zealand we shall find that in that progressive Dominion, the per capita land taxation is much higher than ours, and has been so for many years.

Senator Bakhap - Does the honorable senator think that things are better in New Zealand than they are in Australia ?

Senator READY - They are very much better so far as the land question is concerned.

Senator Bakhap - Then, why is it that the balance of arrivals and departures between New Zealand and. the Commonwealth is in our favour?

Senator READY - That does not prove anything in particular. Land taxation in New Zealand in 1908-9 was 12s. 7d. per capita, as against 9s. Id. in the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator thinks that conditions there are better than they are here ?

Senator READY - I think that, so far as land settlement is concerned, conditions in New Zealand are much better than they are here.

Senator Millen - Then the honorable senator will try to make this taxation higher still?

Senator READY - With the extra taxation we are now imposing, our land taxation will run out roughly at about 14s. per capita, and last year land taxation in New Zealand amounted to 14s. 7d. per capita. The result in New Zealand has been that the average area of estates above 10,000 acres in extent declined from 30,000 acres in 1889 to about 25,000 acres in 1913.

Senator Stewart - That is very slow.

Senator READY - I consider that a decent decrease in the size of the holdings, but in addition to that, let me inform Senator Stewart that big estates of over 150,000 acres have entirely disappeared in New Zealand.

Senator Millen - How many were there ?

Senator READY - In 1899, 1,389,554 acres were held in New Zealand in areas of 150,000 acres or over.

Senator Millen - About ten estates.

Senator READY - That is so, but they were a menace to the people of New Zealand. In 1900 the area held in estates of 150,000 or over was only 223,282 acres, so that there were barely two estates of that size. To-day there are no estates in the Dominion of New Zealand that are over 150,000 acres in extent.

I hope that the result of this measure will mean returning to the people the community-created value of land for which they are responsible, and that we shall not have in future estates paying taxation to the amount of £27,000 as we have in Australia to-day, and we shall not have ten persons or companies in Tasmania paying £16,000 a year in Federal land taxation. We do not wish these people to be taxed. What we desire is that they shall sell their holdings. When honorable senators consider that out of £32,000 received in Commonwealth land taxation from 500 people in Tasmania, ten individuals or companies, paid £16,000, they will see how bad land monopoly, relatively speaking, was in that State.

We hope that these things will alter. I trust that in three years time there will be no estate in Australia of over 100,000 acres in extent. I do not think it was ever intended, under any system of political economy, that such an estate should exist. This taxation will help the owners of large estates to get rid of them. It will not confiscate them. The owners will receive coin of the realm in return for them, and will be neither robbed nor plundered. They will be in a position, fairly and honorably, to sell their land, and so escape this taxation ; and at the same time this will enable persons who will work the land adequately to fill their places, and assist in making the Commonwealth the great nation which we all hope it will be.

I congratulate the Government upon introducing this Bill. I think that we have not yet reached the limit in the taxation of big estates, not of the farmer or the useful man, but of the land loafer. Other nations can set a good example in the matter of the imposition of land taxation. We are not alone in taking these drastic steps. I have some figures from a Japanese official source which show that Japan last year raised £7,500,000 from land taxation, or 12 per cent, of her total revenue, from unimproved land value taxation, out of a total of £39,000,000 raised by taxation.

Senator Bakhap - She has to bear a burden of over £200,000,000 war debt incurred during the Russo-Japanese war.

Senator READY - That is so; but it is clear that the principle of this taxation is approved by the Japanese people. The Japanese are a growing and prosperous nation, and are copying the practices of other nations. It is clear that they do not believe that the adoption of this policy will have the effect of holding back the prosperity of their country.

I do not wish to pursue this matter further. I believe that no State will benefit more from this proposed increase of land taxation than will the State of Tasmania. I hope that when, at the end of three years, we take up our returns from the Commissioner of Land Tax, instead of showing that we are in practically a stationaryposition so far as the sales of land are concerned, as Senator Stewart pointed out in a recent speech, we shall have evidence not merely of an increased, revenue, but of the accomplishment of the other object of this taxation so well stressed by Senator Pearce, and will find that many of the large land-holders will have sold their lands to those who will put them to a better use. If that object is attained, this measure alone will have justified the existence of the Labour party, and will warrant their return to the Treasury benches to control the destinies of the Commonwealth .

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