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Wednesday, 11 August 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my entire disapproval of the proposal of the Government to raise the revenue for roadmaking schemes from Customs taxation. I disagree entirely with my leader (Senator Needham) as to the way in which the scheme should be financed. On several occasions I have endeavoured to enlighten honorable senators as to the source from which this money should come. Unfortunately, they are prepared to accept any proposal, bo matter how ridiculous it may be, rather than go to the right source. It has been said over and over again that every one is in favour of good roads. There appears to be complete unanimity on 'this point, but when it comes to paying for the roads there is the widest possible divergence of opinion. Some people say that the money should be provided out of loan. That idea does not appeal to me, and, unlike my leader, I disapprove of the proposal to draw upon the general revenue for it. If our general revenue were derived mainly from the proper source, which I shall indicate presently, possibly it would be sound finance to pay road construction out of general revenue, but at present the bulk of our revenue is derived from the taxation of goods made in foreign, lowwage, long-hour, protectionist countries.

Senator McHugh - What does the honorable senator suggest? A tax on land values ?

Senator GRANT - I can see that Senator McHugh thoroughly understands the subject. I have no doubt that Senator Hoare and Senator Barwell are likewise well informed upon it.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - I have heard the honorable senator state his views frequently.

Senator GRANT - And I hope that before long we shall hear Senator Barwell publicly expressing the faith that is in him regardless of the caucus ties which unfortunately bind him to this retrograde and out-of-date Ministry.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some of us thought we understood the subject until we listened to the honorable senator's speeches.

Senator GRANT - I am sure that Senator Thomas could, if he had his way, tell us how we could get free roads and free railways. He is a believer in the policy that revenue should be derived from land value taxation.

Senator Findley - Now he believes in taxing beer and whisky.

Senator GRANT - Fancy getting a Consolidated Revenue from that source and handing it to the States, which, in turn, would hand it to municipalities and district roads boards for road-making purposes ! The idea is unworthy of any intelligent citizen. The immediate effect, as we all know, of the making of good roads is the enhancement in the value of land on both sides of such roads.

Senator Crawford - The honorable senator told us all this last night.

Senator GRANT - Apparently the Minister and his friends have not assimilated the information whichI gave them last night. I may add that the immediate effect of making good roads is to immensely increase also the value of lands in the metropolitan area. I did not say that last night. I hope that in the recess the Minister will be able to assimilate what I am saying. I am sure that nine-tenths of the people endorse the views I am stating, and how they permit themselves to be dragged unceremoniously at the heels of the troglodytes who are in control of the Treasury benches is beyond my understanding. About 91 years ago the site upon which this building stands was virgin Australian bush.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable senator will sit down I will vote against the bill.

Senator GRANT - It does not concern me what Senator Thomas proposes to do. My purpose now is to put before the Senate what I regard as the correct method of raising revenue for the construction and maintenance of roads. Instead of obtaining the money from the proper source, the Government proposes to impose a tax upon petrol. I remind the Ministry that the time has long since passed when motor cars were the exclusive property of the allegedly rich. They are coming more and more into general use. But for the fact that this protectionist Government some years ago imposed a duty of between £50 and £60 on imported motor cars, we should be able to buy a " Lizzie " for about £125, instead of having, because of our great national policy, to pay nearly £200. The price of every other class of imported motor car has been correspondingly increased. But the Government was not satisfied with the petrol tax. It concocted a scheme to levy duties on imported tires and motor chassis. Fortunately public opinion proved too strong, and the Government had to abandon those duties. ' If there is one thing I am more opposed to than another it is this idea of taxing a man who renders service to the community. Under the Income Tax Act we levy a tax upon citizens in proportion to the value of services rendered. The Government now proposes to penalize the users of petrol, whether for commercial purposes or for pleasure, for every mile they run along our roads. The more the Government taxes petrol users the more it will discourage the , employment of capital and labour. I am reminded of the time when people in the Old Country were taxed at every point if they did anything useful in the service of their fellow men. The roads of Sydney are made and maintained from the proceeds of ,a straight-out land value tax of about 4d. in the £1, which falls fairly on every land-holder in the city. Every motor owner there will be required to pay the petrol tax, but no portion of the revenue so raised will be spent on Sydney roads. One section of the people is to be penalized for the benefit of another. The general community will receive no advantage from this tax ; all the benefit will be derived by the land-owners. The Govern ment should have profited by the fine, example of municipal government set ira Sydney.

Senator Crawford - Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that the Sydney City Council affords a good example of municipal government?

Senator GRANT - Yes, the best in the Commonwealth. No penalty is imposed in Sydney on a man who decides to employ labour there; but in Melbourne we see armies of unemployed.

Senator Crawford - The roads scheme will give employment.

Senator GRANT - It is intended for the sole purpose of increasing the value of land.

Senator Crawford - It will minimize wear and tear on motor cars.

Senator GRANT - Yes. I approve of good roads, but the Government proposes to defray the cost of the scheme in an inequitable manner. When the Minister and I were in New Guinea some time ago we drove over a road, the equal to which is not to be found in the Commonwealth.

Senator Crawford - But it was built by forced labour.

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