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Tuesday, 15 December 1914

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - 1 must confess that I have found it very difficult indeed to understand clause 2 of this Bill, although I have closely compared it with the existing Land Tax Assessment Act. The language of the clause is most difficult to understand. There are no less than three different negatives following each other in the course of one or two lines. Is it really the intention of this Bill to tax mining leases? It seems to me, from the wording of the clause, that it is the intention of the Government to impose a tax on mining leases. That is a most extraordinary and farcical thing for any Administration to attempt to do. I am not aware of any State Government that, in the greatest exigency, has ever made such an attempt. All the mining leases in Australia of which I have any cognisance are held direct from the Crown, and the rentals are fixed by Statute. I should be a very poor representative of the mining community, whose interests I have endeavoured in a humble way to serve in the State Legislature from time to time, if I did not attempt to discover the intention of the Government in this matter. Mining leases are held from the Crown, and are subject in Tasmania only to taxation by municipalities, and they take the rental value of such leases as equivalent to the annua] value when the annual value is taken as the basis of municipal taxation. The proviso in this clause would puzzle the genius of the greatest mining expert in the world. It reads -

Provided that in the assessment of the unimproved value of a lease the value of any metals or minerals or other rights reserved to the Crown shall he excluded.

T should like to know who is going to assess, on behalf of the Crown, the value of undisclosed minerals or metals in a mining lease, and of what value such an assessment will be. The whole thing is ridiculous. What is the unimproved value of a mining lease ? What is the unimproved value of metals or minerals? Ever since I was a lad of twelve years of age I have obtained my living from mining, and I would like to possess the ability to determine the value of undisclosed minerals in any mining lease. But I would require to serve a very much longer apprenticeship to enable me to do that. Is it the intention of the Government to tax the rental of such raining leases? I must protest against this Bill, the draftsmanship of which is involved, being put before' us nt. such a late hour of the night. No shadowy proposition of this kind will satisfy me. It is a most farcical proposal to be embodied in any legislation. Are we going to sanction the taxation of mining leases in connexion with a Bill the alleged objective of which is to destroy land monopoly ? What is intended ? The Minister seems to think that, although there is an intention expressed here to tax the economic margins in connexion with mining leases, no revenue will be derived from that source. If that be so, why should we embody in the Bill this provision in the hope that it will produce a pound or two by way of revenue ?

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