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Tuesday, 13 December 1927

The PRESIDENT - I ask the honorable senator not to reply to that interjection; it is distinctly disorderly.

Senator FINDLEY - Without replying to the honorable senator's disorderly interjection, I desire to say that the value of some cattle stations in Australia has fallen.

Senator Herbert Hays - That is because there is no sale for our beef.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator's interjection opens a big field. Our export trade has declined because cattle growers are not satisfied with the prices they receive for their meat. They have, however, been assisted by the Government.

Senator Herbert Hays - Then why does the honorable senator say that cattle country has increased in value?

Senator FINDLEY - The Commissioner's report shows that all land has creased in value. He does not exclude cattle country, or land devoted to agriculture, horticulture, or viticulture. Nor does he exempt city and suburban land. If the value of land in Australia had not increased, Australia would indeed be in a bad way.

Senator Herbert Hays - The value of land in the aggregate may have increased whereas the value of cattle country has fallen. '

Senator FINDLEY - Land is worth what it will produce. Apart from droughts, our cattle country will produce as much to-day as it produced in days gone by. The means of transport in cattle country are better than they were in past years, and that has made the land more valuable. Those engaged in cattle raising are not the only section of the community which is experiencing difficulties. Nearly all our primary producers are faced with difficulties because the world's market is not what it was before the war. . The present financial depression in Australia and throughout the world is the outcome of the war.

Senator Herbert Hays - Then why blame the Government?

Senator FINDLEY - I blame it for reducing taxation and not proceeding with necessary public works, thereby causing unemployment and depression.

Senator Herbert Hays - Where is the money to come from ?

Senator FINDLEY - If there had been no reduction of income taxation, the revenue this year would be over £1,250,000 more than we shall now receive. That amount would enable the Government to proceed with necessary public worksand thereby provide more employment. I object to the proposal to reduce land taxation and also to triennal valuations. Has this change of policy been adopted because the present staff of the department is unable to make an annual valuation ? If that is the reason, it would pay the Government to increase the staff.

Senator McLachlan - Would it surprise the honorable senator to know that valuations are now made triennially?

Senator FINDLEY - In view of the rapid increases in the value of land, I favour an annual valuation. If a man buys land in any of our capital cities today he is taxed on the price paid for it. But during the next three years that land may increase considerably, in value. That has happened over night. In the circumstances, it is wrong to provide for a valuation only once in every three years. If the same principle were applied to income tax, honorable senators would object. I do not doubt the Minister's statement that triennial valuations will find favour with the taxpayers. They would not object to the total abolition of the tax, because every reduction of tax is popular with those who otherwise would have to pay. But we in the Senate should not be concerned with the popularity or otherwise of a tax; we should ask ourselves whether it is fair. The present land tax is not too high. If there is one thing more than another that will assist the development of Australia it is the imposition of a land tax sufficiently high to force some of the land now' held in big estates either to be put to its proper use by its present owners or to be sub-divided and sold. The Development and Migration Commission has been created with a view to placing more settlers on the land. Every reduction in the land tax will increase the difficulties confronting that body. A triennial valuation of land will retard the progress of Australia. For the reasons that I have given, I shall oppose the second reading.

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