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Friday, 16 July 1915

Senator LYNCH - By Scotchmen.

Senator STEWART - I hope so. I hope that wherever a good thing is going Scotchmen will have the good sense to get a. bit of it. Unfortunately, the report of the Scottish Commission was true, and until this land scarcity . is broken down the growth of population that is absolutely necessary in Australia cannot take place. We have large estates in every portion of the continent, and it is not- the worst land that is monopolized. In every case it is the best land. Men who came along in the early days - whether they were English, Scottish, or Irish -were not fools. They knew good land when they saw it, and they took .precious good care to get a slice of it. They took the very best country that it was possible to obtain. If honorable senators care to examine the facts in connexion with almost every large estate in Australia, they will find that each estate comprises practically the best of the land in the particular district in which it is situated. It is the duty of this Parliament, and more particularly of the Government, to take this matter in hand and deal with it. We have made an attempt to tackle the question. The Labour party inaugurated a land value tax, which, it was hoped, would break down big estates, cheapen land, and encourage settlement. But it has not broken down big estates, cheapened land, or encouraged settlement. ^ Senator Grant. - The tax is not heavy enough.

Senator STEWART - Of course it is not. To achieve its purpose, it must be made very much heavier, and it is the bounden duty of the Labour party, which is in power to-day, to see that the conditions of land monopoly which now prevail in Australia are broken down. We have the power to do it. In both Houses we have the majority, and it can be done if Ave only have the courage to tackle the matter; we shall fail in the principal object of our existence as a party if we do not do it. If we leave the land question untouched, no matter what else we do, we shall have done practically nothing. We talk about this combine and that combine, but all the evils done by all the combines combined are not causing one tithe of the injury that land monopoly is doing to the people of Australia. The land monopolist not only does nothing to promote industry; he also prevents any one else from doing anything. Before lunch I heard one Minister interject, in a scornful fashion that while I favoured land values taxation I objected to taxes on stocks and shares, and so forth. Land values taxation is not taxation; it is merely the people getting for themselves the values which they have themselves created. If a man creates a thing, surely to goodness he is entitled to it. If we, by public expenditure and one thing and another, create huge land values in Australia, surely we are entitled to them; yet those gentlemen who appear to be so anxious to promote the interests of the working men do not touch the land monopolists who are preventing working men from getting employment, but propose to attack men who put their money into productive industries, who are doing something to promote the prosperity of the country, who are not burying their talents in the soil, but are putting them to active use in the way in which they should be employed to be of any use to the country. I do not object to an income tax, or to any form of taxation; but until we have exhausted land values taxation we have no right to impose other taxes. At any rate it is very bad business to do so. The first line of revenue production should be land values. They belong to the people of the country, and should be obtained "by them for their own benefit. Last year our finances went £12,000,000 to the bad owing to the war, yet every year we are going £30,000,000 to the bad because of the fact that communitycreated values, instead of going to the public Treasury, are going into the pockets of private individuals. If we could get all the community-created values to which we are entitled - every farthing of them - we would be able to pay the cost of the war without passing on to the people one penny of the cost in the shape of taxation.

Senator Grant - How will the land monopolist live after we take all this value from him ?

Senator STEWART - He will have to do as other people do. He will have to work. I am not concerned as to how the land monopolist is going to live.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - He might come into Parliament.

Senator STEWART - That is a very good way of making a living when a man cannot do anything else. . Unless' the Labour party deals with this question, anything else it may do will be practically of no value.

Senator de Largie - That is all fudge.

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator may say that it is all fudge, but I do not believe that it is. Land is the foundation of everything.

Senator Millen - If the .State is- to collect £30,000,000 a year, the honorable senator's estimate of the amount of the community-created value, it can only do so by maintaining land values at their present range. How, then, can land be made cheaper for those who wish to occupy it?

Senator STEWART - It is quite true, as the honorable senator suggests, that if land values are taxed to their full extent there will be an immediate depreciation of the value of land; but I ask him to remember that there will also be an appreciation of population, not immediately afterwards, perhaps, but certainly within a comparatively short period. As the population grows, so land values will .increase, and the amount of revenue to be produced from that source will also increase.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator admits that land values will not come down as a result of his system of taxation?

Senator STEWART - Land values will continue to increase.

Senator Millen - Then, for the time being, the complaint of the Scottish Commissioners will still remain good.

Senator STEWART - The object of land values taxation is to force land into use, and that can only be done by cheapening it for the moment, but as settlement increases land values will again go up. I do- not object to that aspect of the question. What I object to -is the fact that at present the increase of land values goes into the pockets of private individuals, whereas it should go into the public Treasury. -With the increase of population increase of values is inevitable ; nothing can stop it, and it is not desirable that it should be stopped; but the increase, instead of going into the pockets of private individuals, as now happens, should be poured into- the public Treasury. In any case, Australia has huge empty areas of land, and we need more and more population - in the country districts and not in the city. Half the population of Australia live in towns. Half the people of New South Wales live in Sydney and its environments; half the people of South Australia live about Adelaide; nearly half the people in Victoria live round about Melbourne, and it is the same right through the whole of the continent. Surely this state of affairs cannot be productive of good. Why are the people nocking into the cities ? Is it because of the attractions of city life? There- may be something in that view, but that is not the sole cause. The principal reason is the difficulty of getting accessible land at a cheap rate. I believe that is the great difficulty in connexion - with land settlement; but if the policy of land values taxation be carried out, I am. certain that within a- comparatively short period there will be a large increase in. our rural population, and consequently in our production. Last year we did not grow enough wheat in Australia to meet our own needs. We even had to import butter.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -Why?

Senator STEWART - Because of the drought. But I know areas in Australia, now held by monopolists, upon which wheat and butter could be produced even in the driest season. It is the poor land which gives out first. The rich land will produce with a comparatively small rainfall. I have not the slightest doubt that if land monopoly were broken up we never would have a time of scarcity such as, unfortunately, we have had during, the last season. That is another aspect. From whatever point of view one cares to examine the question, one can only be driven to this conclusion : that until we deal with this most important matter, we really will have done nothing to promote the happiness or prosperity of the people with whose government we are charged. Let honorable senators think for a moment what it means to have complete control over the lands of a country. Everything we eat, or drink, or wear, or use comes from the land. There is nothing that we can mention that one uses in any relation of life which does not come out of the soil. That being so, surely the owners of the soil have a tremendous lien over those who use it. That is the reason why I desire that the Government should have complete control over every acre in Australia. Not only do- I think that that is important from the present point of view, but when I look around, and see the advances being made ' every year in science, and when I reflect upon the possibilities of the future, when areas which we now regard as being worthless will probably become extremely profitable by reason of some invention, I am more than ever- driven to conclude that the' laud is the supreme question. Until the people of Australia have complete control over the lands of this continent they will have done little or nothing towards their industrial or economic salvation. There is another phase of this industrial question which might well occupy the attention of Parliament - I refer to the creation of new industries within Australia. We have within the confines of this continent everything that is required for the use of man. There" is hardly a necessity or a luxury which cannot be produced in Australia. We have every known mineral - the richest minerals - such as gold, silver, tin, copper, coal, and iron. In short, we have everything which is necessary for the existence of a nation. Let us use these commodities instead of remaining as we are as present - dependent upon foreign countries for a large measure of the commodities that we require. I know that, in Australia, a great many persons who come from the Mother Country are still obsessed with the Free Trade idea. They think that because England became prosperous under Free Trade, the Commonwealth can become prosperous under a similar policy. But I would point out that there is a mighty difference between prosperity and greatness. The two terms do not signify the same thing at all. A community may be prosperous without being great, or great without being prosperous. Many people think that, because England flourished under a policy of Free Trade, that is the policy which should be adopted by the Commonwealth. One might as well argue that the food required by a man in his mature years, or in his old age, is that which was given to him when he was an infant. I firmly believe that what we require for our development is, not a policy of Free Trade with other countries, but a policy of Protection - a policy which will not only encourage the production of everything that we require within our own boundaries, but which will compel that production.

Senator Turley - I am afraid that " Brother Grant " will not agree with the honorable senator.

Senator STEWART - A nd, perhaps, "Brother Turley" will not agree with me. I cannot help that. I have to say, not what " Brother Grant," or any other brother may think, but what this brother thinks. We 'require a policy of Protection.

Senator Grant - The honorable senator means a high revenue Tariff, does he not?

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